On Sunday, Nov. 13, there was a gathering at the Aquinnah town hall to thank Walter Delaney for his 17 years of service as the town’s fire chief. Fire chiefs and public safety officials from the various Island towns were present, as was tribal chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais and numerous town officials and residents. Letters of appreciation were read from members of the legislature and Congressman Keating.

Walter deserved the thanks for his service as fire chief. But Walter also served for 35 years as town moderator, 14 years as a town selectman, and five years as Aquinnah’s representative to the land bank. He is still serving the town, as a member of the conservation commission (a job he has held for more than 10 years now.)

It is difficult to be a leader in any Vineyard town, but Aquinnah may be the hardest: the smaller the town, the more difficult the task, as the issues become all the more personal. Walter’s tenure as moderator included the town meeting in which the voters decided to change the town’s name from Gay Head to Aquinnah and the meeting in which the town approved the settlement agreement with the tribe, ending years of litigation between the governments. As a selectman and moderator he oversaw the enactment of numerous land use regulations and the creation of the townwide Aquinnah district of critical planning concern. As a land bank commissioner, he led the way for the acquisition and preservation of important properties throughout the Island.

Throughout his 35 years of public service, Walter has always acted in what he perceived to be the best interest of all the citizens and residents of the town. I found it particularly meaningful that the tribal administrator came to the Sunday gathering to thank Walter for his years of service. Relations between the town and the tribe have not always been smooth. Walter has been viewed as someone who tried to be fair, a sentiment reflected in his reelection time and again.

During my almost 30 years as town counsel, I have worked closely with Walter and sat side by side with him through many town meetings. I respect him as a person and admire the time and effort he has put into his public positions. I join those assembled on Sunday in thanking Walter for his years of service. I wish him and his wife, Nancy, well in their retirements.

Ron Rappaport is town counsel to five of the six Vineyard towns and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.