This interview is long overdue. Greg Coogan became a member of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen 11 years ago. He is the senior member of the board. He ran for office the first time to keep the town in the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. “Many people back then wanted the town to leave the commission. The commission has its problems, Rick, but it’s the only political entity with an Islandwide perspective. We need that.”
That wider perspective is what defines Greg Coogan. “I like to deal with a difficult issue and hear lots of different opinions about it. Once all sides have made their case, I weigh that information and vote for what I think is in the best interest of the town.
“We have a strong board. Walter has the ear of the East Chop community. Mike Santoro listens to the downtown folks. Gail Barmakian walks all over the place and listens to a wide variety of people. Kathy Burton works in Edgartown, and I worked in Vineyard Haven so we sometimes bring a wider perspective. The point is that everyone on this board brings something to the table. I really feel good about the fact that we work well together to decide what is best for the town.”
Greg is an unusual politician in one important respect. I tried to get him to toot his own horn, but he was happier praising others. “Walter Vail did a great job chairing the board last year. He is a good listener, and knows how to get things done. He knows how to bring people together to solve problems. He was also relentless with FEMA in going after money to save the Bluff. FEMA originally said no, but Walter would not take no for an answer. He pestered them until they changed their minds. Now, the question is not whether or not we will get money, but rather how much.
“Bob Whritenour was also great on that issue. He and Walter worked together on it. Bob has been a fantastic town manager. In three years, he has brought us back to fiscal health. He has wide experience in managing towns. He knows the nuts and bolts of getting things done. We are lucky to have him.”
East Chop is lucky to have Greg Coogan. He has summered here in his grandparents’ house on Green avenue since he was eight months old. Since then he has left the Island a few times, but settled in East Chop for good in his early 20s. He taught fifth and sixth grade math in the Vineyard Haven elementary school for 30 years before recently retiring. He is married to Sharon Coogan, and they have two children, Catie, 30, and Packy, 28.
“Rick, I love East Chop because it’s a beautiful, gentle place. But East Chop is part of a larger Island. I have worked hard to try to combine the Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven police and fire departments. The towns can be very parochial in their perspectives, which, of course, is the reason I have not yet succeeded in this effort. But I plan to keep at it. The fact is we share many common problems. By working together, we can both save money and provide better services."
While we talked on Greg’s porch, the Coogan family was busy with wedding preparations. Catie Coogan and Josh Reyal were married on June 28 at the East Chop Lighthouse. Our family was privileged to watch a part of the ceremony as seven bridesmaids and six flower girls paraded past our house on their way to the lighthouse. Moments later Catie and Greg came by in Jack Law’s 1941 Buick limousine. It was a beautiful day at the lighthouse and a very special wedding.
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