After serving 21 years as Oak Bluffs selectman and eight years as Dukes County commissioner, Island political mainstay Roger Wey this week announced his intentions to run for the soon-to-be vacated seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives now held by Eric Turkington.
Mr. Wey unexpectedly announced his intentions to run for state representative during an informal meeting Wednesday at Oak Bluffs town hall called to discuss emergency repairs at the town waterfront. His announcement came two weeks after Mr. Turkington said he would not seek reelection in November for the seat he has held for nearly 20 years.
Mr. Turkington instead plans to run for register of the Barnstable County family and probate court.
In a conversation with the Gazette this week, Mr. Wey said he decided to run for state representative after Mr. Turkington announced he would not seek reelection. Mr. Wey said he never previously considered running for higher political office, but felt compelled to try and carry on the legacy of Mr. Turkington, whom he called a “good friend and colleague.”
“Eric has done a great job. One of my goals would simply be to carry on his tradition. He has served the Cape and Islands very well,” Mr. Wey said.
Mr. Wey, 66, cited his considerable experience in both municipal and regional politics as qualifications for state representative. In addition to serving seven terms as Oak Bluffs selectman and two terms as Dukes County commissioner, he has also served on the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, the Dukes County retirement board, the Dukes County charter study commission and the Oak Bluffs board of appeals.
He has also served as the director of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging since 2005 and is an active member in the Democratic party.
“Overall I think I have a very well-rounded background. I have fought for issues I believe in at the town level and at the county level, and have also represented the Island on several trips to Boston and Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Mr. Wey said that if he were elected he would push for reform of the home insurance industry, which has reached near-crisis levels on the Cape and Islands, and would continue to oppose the Cape Wind proposal.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter of renewable energy, but I don’t think that project is good for this region. It’s potentially harmful to our fishermen, our economy and our way of life,” he said.
Mr. Wey said he would bring the same approach to state politics he has depended on as selectman and county commissioner: listen to what people have to say, keep government open and honest and fight against the things he feels are wrong.
“I think I’ve always been a straight shooter, someone people know they can depend on. I think the big key to serving the people is listening to what they have to say. Of course, I have my own opinions, but I would never try to make decisions without first checking [with the people]. I never forget that I work for them,” he said.
Mr. Wey moved to the Island from Winthrop in 1975, after which he promptly entered public service. He has seven grown children, who he said have already given his plans the thumbs up.
Mr. Wey said he has taken out nomination papers for state representative, although he has yet to return them. He said he was in the early stages of mounting a campaign and is still getting word out of his candidacy.
If elected, Mr. Wey speculated he would step down as county commissioner and director of the council on aging, and would likely opt not to run for reelection for Oak Bluffs selectmen next April.
When reached by phone yesterday, Mr. Turkington said he had spoken with Mr. Wey about his plans. The longtime Cape and Islands representative said he was flattered that Mr. Wey said he planned to carry on his legacy, but was quick to point out that he had his own active legacy on the Vineyard.
“I think the world of Roger [Wey]. I think he is very committed to public service and is very qualified,” he said.
Mr. Turkington said he had no plans to formally endorse a candidate for his replacement, noting that a large field of candidates are expected to run. There are reports that as many as six candidates have already expressed interest in the seat, including Tim Madden of Nantucket, Dan Larkosh of the Vineyard and Falmouth selectman Catherine Bumpus.