Incumbent West Tisbury selectman Glenn Hearn is an Islander with a no-frills, taciturn personal style.
Born and raised in West Tisbury, he attended Tisbury grammar school and high school. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1959 and holds two master’s degrees, one in engineering from Northeastern University and one in education from the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Beginning in 1959, Mr. Hearn worked as an engineer in private industry for 26 years and also spent 15 years teaching at Northeastern University between 1977 and 1992. He then returned to the Island to serve as clerk of the works for the West Tisbury agricultural hall building project.
He taught math at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School until 2000 when he began his public service career.
A two-term incumbent, Mr. Hearn beat former longtime selectman Cynthia Mitchell by just 20 votes in an election upset in April of 2002. This year Mr. Hearn faces the first challenge for his seat. In an interview with the Gazette this week he spoke about his candidacy and the state of the West Tisbury union.
“I believe the town is in pretty good shape. I bring three principles to the job: patience, pursuit and passion. I am patient enough to listen to all sides of an issue, I pursue solutions and I have a passion to serve my town,” he said.
“We have brought back the spirit of residents being encouraged to speak their piece,” he added.
Mr. Hearn said he thinks the town is well-run and he said the challenges it faces are connected directly to growth. “Controlling spending is key and our tax rate has declined from $4.54 to $4.09 over three years. We have to keep the levy as level as possible. Years ago, budget increases of 10 per cent, even 23 per cent, were common,” he said.
Referring back to the recommendations that came out of a town review by the state Department of Revenue in 1997, he said:
“They recommended a stronger financial planning team and we have a capital improvements committee and we’ve built an excellent treasurer and accountant team.”
But he also does not deny the problems, including persistent questions from a growing group of town residents about property taxes. “There are difficulties,” Mr. Hearn said. “We have to dig more into the assessment process to provide more understanding for the taxpayer. More than just describing a process where data is fed in and results spit out,” he said.
He also said he believes the town needs to identify areas to cut spending. “West Tisbury has a terrible problem with the Up-Island School district. We need more efficiency in a school that’s large enough for all three towns and is only half full,” he said, adding:
“And we need more regional initiatives to save money and all the towns need to be involved. Perhaps we should use the Nantucket model where selectmen also perform county jobs. They are the county commissioners. Why have six licenses for things?”
He concluded on a specific note about the scenic Mill Pond.
“We need to retain the character of the town. That’s why the Mill Pond project is important. We need change but we need also to retain the beauty of the town,” he said.