Split Vote Names Mr. Hanover as Governor

Gazette Senior Writer

In a 4-3 vote, the Dukes County Commission on Wednesday opted for stability over new ideas, choosing Marc Hanover of Oak Bluffs as the next Vineyard Steamship Authority governor.

Commission members Leslie Leland, Leonard Jason Jr., Paul Strauss and John Alley voted for Mr. Hanover, an Oak Bluffs restaurateur who has served for the past two years on the port council, an advisory board to the boat line.

Commission members Robert Sawyer, Nelson Smith and Roger Wey voted for Edgartown hotelier Mark A. Snider.

The two remaining candidates - Mr. Sawyer, who is a Vineyard Haven resident, and Kenneth DeBettencourt of Oak Bluffs - received no votes.

Following the 4-3 vote, Mr. Alley, chairman of the commission, asked for and received a unanimous vote appointing Mr. Hanover to the three-year unpaid post.

Following the decision, Mr. Hanover thanked the commission for handing him the job, which is arguably the most powerful position on the Vineyard.

He said he sees the value of restoring stability to the SSA, which has been roiled by conflicts in recent years, including a move earlier this year by Nantucket to explore secession from the boat line.

Mr. Hanover said he also wants the SSA to keep making improvements, though many of them will be subtle. He also wants the boat line to continue to give preferential treatment to Islanders and commuters, a treatment that he said would be subsidized by visitors using the boat line.

The new governor said he also will seek direction from the commission, Island boards of selectmen, and Vineyard residents in general.

In a brief interview after the appointment, Mr. Hanover said he wants the SSA to emphasize customer service. He said he hopes to win the confidence of commission members who did not vote for him at Wednesday's meeting.

On Wednesday the commissioners also voted 7-0 to appoint Mr. Hanover to serve the remainder of the term of former Vineyard member Kathryn A. Roessel, who was found dead at her Vineyard Haven home Nov. 27. Ms. Roessel's term expires Dec. 31.

A procedural glitch had threatened to prevent Mr. Hanover from taking his seat at today's SSA meeting in Woods Hole. Because of a peculiar staffing shortage at Dukes County Superior Court, Mr. Hanover could not be sworn in on the Vineyard.

Undeterred, Mr. Hanover subsequently made arrangements yesterday to travel and be sworn in at Barnstable Superior Court, which would enable him to vote as the Vineyard governor today.

At the meeting this morning the search committee is set to recommend a choice for a new general manager. A source told the Gazette that the committee plans to recommend interim general manager Wayne Lamson.

Barnstable governor and board chairman Robert O'Brien welcomed news of Mr. Hanover's appointment.

"I'm delighted," Mr. O'Brien said yesterday. "I think the Dukes County commissioners should be congratulated on an exceptionally fine choice."

Mr. O'Brien said Mr. Hanover's service on the port council provides him with the background to start fully functioning not only as a boat line member, but as chairman of the SSA which falls by statute this coming year to the Vineyard member. "He walks in there fully prepared," Mr. O'Brien said.

Going forward, Mr. O'Brien said, Mr. Hanover will provide needed stability for the Steamship Authority. Two boat line members - Ms. Roessel and the former Nantucket member, Grace Grossman - died this year, and chief executive officer Fred C. Raskin resigned this past summer.

Falmouth governor Robert Marshall said yesterday that he was glad that the county commissioners "resolved their perceived confusion, and have settled on a good, qualified person."

That said, Mr. Marshall has raised his eyebrows at statements by Mr. Hanover questioning the boat line's decision to contract out service between the Vineyard and New Bedford. "It was the only economic sense that made any sense at all," Mr. Marshall said.

As for what Mr. Hanover's appointment means going forward, Mr. Marshall said, "It's a marathon, not a sprint. What change that will mean in the 35 per cent [vote], we'll have to see."

Yesterday Mr. Snider said the most important thing in the SSA selection process was the consideration of issues that are important to the Vineyard.

"Marc Hanover will be a great member," Mr. Snider said. As for himself, he said he absolutely will remain involved in boat line issues.

Wednesday's vote by the county commission concludes a complicated process that included the issuance of advisory letters from the state ethics commission, the candidacy of county commission member Mr. Sawyer, and the unexpected death of Ms. Roessel, who had been a candidate for reappointment and who was the fiancé of county commission member Mr. Smith.

At the meeting, the commissioners went around the table, making and explaining their choices. There were two rounds of voting.

In the first round:

Mr. Leland voted for Mr. Hanover, citing his service on the port council, where he has represented Oak Bluffs, and his 28 years of business experience.

Mr. Strauss said he had been facing a dilemma in whether to vote for experience or new ideas. He voted for Mr. Snider, seen as representing the latter.

Mr. Smith said he was voting for Mr. Snider, noting that he has known him for more than 30 years.

Mr. Jason voted for Mr. Hanover, citing the need for stability.

Mr. Wey voted for Mr. Snider, calling him the best choice.

Mr. Alley voted for Mr. Hanover, citing the need for stability and cooperation.

The result was a 3-3 tie. Mr. Alley then called a recess. After consulting with county manager E. Winn Davis, Mr. Alley then announced he would reopen the voting with just two candidates, Mr. Hanover and Mr. Snider. If the commission could not make a decision, he said, the vote would be postponed until Jan. 5.

At that point, Mr. Sawyer, who no longer was a candidate, said he would resume his seat at the table and cast a vote.

Mr. Jason objected, saying that Mr. Sawyer hadn't received any votes and now was seeking to be the tie breaker.

Mr. Davis said Mr. Sawyer legally was entitled to vote on the decision. As a candidate, Mr. Sawyer had chosen not to participate as a commissioner in the interviews or cast a vote, so as to not pose even the appearance of conflict. The state ethics commission had cleared the way for him to participate.

Mr. Sawyer resumed his seat at the table.

In the second round of voting, Mr. Strauss changed his vote to Mr. Hanover, saying since he cast the first vote he had decided that stability in the SSA post was most important. Mr. Sawyer voted for Mr. Snider, and in the end Mr. Alley cast the tie-breaking vote for Mr. Hanover.

Given the guidelines the commission followed, Mr. Alley said Mr. Hanover could best represent the Island.