He is a retired college professor with additional background in journalism and environmental advocacy. As co-chairman of the West Tisbury finance committee he focuses on town finances and long-term financial planning.

And now Richard Knabel wants to be a West Tisbury selectman.

A New York city native, Mr. Knabel was educated at City College of New York and Cornell University before a career as a professor of physical science at the State University of New York, Westchester Community College.

Mr. Knabel edited a local weekly newspaper and served as president for 12 years of the 222-unit condominium complex where he lived in Westchester County. He was also president for five years of Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to the health of the Hudson River estuary.

He was a seasonal resident on the Vineyard for nearly 20 years before moving to the Island in 1997.

In the annual town election next Thursday Mr. Knabel will try to unseat Glenn Hearn, a two-term incumbent selectman. In an interview with the Gazette this week Mr. Knabel said he is running because he believes selectmen should be proactive leaders, but are not. And he outlined town priorities as he sees them.

“Town hall renovation is one of the major issues for us to resolve,” he said. “We’ve spent $400,000 over the years just to get a plan and the two committees have given us a thorough plan. It’s expensive but reasonable. I don’t think we’re going to get a better plan and the town seems to want it.” He continued:

“The other major issue is the way assessors have conducted a revaluation that has torn up the town in so many ways. You’d think the people who run the town would understand the way it was handled would create needless discord. The dagger-twisting was avoidable. How does this happen?

“Whether you see the revaluation effect simply as real estate values increasing or as an eviction notice, both sides share this in common: the lack of proactive leadership on the part of the selectmen.

“The selectmen should be a piece of an organic whole. In Edgartown, facing the same situation on Chappaquiddick, assessors and selectmen talked to each other, got out in front of it and that particular event didn’t play out as it did here.”

Mr. Knabel also sees a lack of direction in town affairs. “There are five budget groups but no one sets policy,” he said. “There is a lack of coordination and insufficient planning. Things just seem to happen.”

And if he is elected?

“I’ll ask questions and get input from the many creative people here to set in motion a more systematic approach that looks 10 years down the road,” he said, adding:

“We must ask questions, like what does it mean if school enrollment is down? What does it mean to the town if residents can’t afford to live here and are forced out or have to cash out?

“I’ll sit with the seven committees, seven boards and four commissions to discuss their plans and expectations. We’ll develop a list of priorities with each.”