Throughout the years, he has guided the town through blizzards, northeasters and hurricanes, boil water orders and multiple presidential visits.
He’s run public safety drills and secured an estimated $6 million in grant funding for the town.
His proudest accomplishment? “Nobody’s died on my watch,” he said.
Now, after 38 years of service, longtime Oak Bluffs emergency manager Peter Martell is stepping down from his post — reluctantly.
Mr. Martell’s office upstairs in the Wesley Hotel, which he co-owns, has served for many years as the headquarters for the town’s disaster response coordination program. A police scanner usually competes for airwaves with a symphony orchestra.
But on Tuesday, days after the conclusion of his official term as emergency management director, the maps, tools, disaster plans, and drawers full of classified files became surplus as Mr. Martell shifted his focus to other activities.
The 71-year-old businessman who wears a mustache, plaid button-down shirts and suspenders, has led the town in disaster and security planning with unyielding dedication.
Another legacy is a 36-foot patrol boat, purchased with a grant and used in numerous search and rescue missions and drills.
Last month, Mr. Martell was honored with a certificate of merit from the Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England, which recognized his efforts to provide safety and security for the port of Oak Bluffs. The citation also noted the patrol boat’s role as primary waterside platform in fighting the Menemsha boathouse fire of 2010, said Paul Murphy, port security specialist in Woods Hole.
In the week after his term officially ended, Mr. Martell reflected on a period of time marked by some turbulence, especially in recent years.
Some of the controversy has surrounded the emergency management equipment, which includes a truck, 12 chainsaws, reserves of emergency water and food supplies and a light tower which can be set up spontaneously to illuminate a certain area.
He has sparred with town and regional officials about the use and storage of the equipment, as well as the use of the high school in a regional disaster or inoculation scenario.
He suspects he was denied reappointment because he “allegedly didn’t get along with the other towns,” he said.
Most recently, he objected to the extension of the duties of the Islandwide regional emergency planning committee, which was originally created for the purpose of coordinating response around hazardous materials.
“I have been resisting it because to me it has no value,” he said. “They are making it a broader mission, and each town has its own unique problems.”
But he also spoke of his collaboration with other towns throughout the years, as well as his work with the Steamship Authority and the Coast Guard. He discussed his continued representation of the Island at statewide disaster response seminars, and the plans he developed for the town, which he has shared with the other Island communities.
This week, he was disappointed to hear that the town planned to split his former duties between the fire and police chiefs.
“The EMD is a separate entity,” he said. “It’s its own entity. How are you going to divide it?”
But selectman Walter Vail saw things in another light. “It is going to take two guys to fill his shoes,” Mr. Vail said. “We thought John and Erik were the right guys to do that,” he said, referring to fire chief John Rose and police chief Erik Blake.
Still, Mr. Vail praised Mr. Martell’s entirely volunteer service to the town.
“Peter has served Oak Bluffs for many years and served Oak Bluffs very well,” Mr. Vail said. “He has a wealth of knowledge and we are going to miss that wealth.”
Sgt. Steven Conley, who was originally positioned to take over the duties of the emergency manager, may assist Mr. Blake and Mr. Rose, Mr. Blake said at the Tuesday selectmen’s meeting.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the role of emergency manager has extended far beyond storm response to involve matters of homeland security and the monitoring of terrorist threat levels. Mr. Martell typically dedicates 10 to 20 hours per week to emergency management duties, he said. Much of that time he spent reading about security concerns and disaster preparation, and preparing response plans.
It will be hard for him to sit back and watch the security landscape unfold from his vantage point atop the Wesley, he said. But he will continue serving on the fire department, and will get back to his reading list of mystery books, and to the project of selling his historic hotel. “I enjoyed it,” he said, reflecting on his years. “It was fun; it was a challenge.”