In the only contested race in Aquinnah this year, longtime selectman James Newman will face challenger Barbara Bassett for a three-year term on the board.

On Wednesday, the two candidates kicked off a public forum for all candidates for town office, sponsored by the League of Women Voters at the Old Town Hall. The town election is Wednesday.

Mr. Newman is vying for his 12th year and fifth term on the board. At the forum, which was attended by about 20 people, Mr. Newman emphasized his belief in the local community and described himself as an agent of change.

“Twelve years ago, I first ran for selectman because of my belief in community, and particularly this community,” he said. He singled out his efforts to “create a positive working relationship” with the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), which operates as a separate governmental entity.

Each candidate highlighted a different set of experiences that they believed prepared them to serve on the town’s chief executive body.

In the 1960s, Mr. Newman spent two years teaching in West Africa. He continued teaching in Newark, N.J., for 30 years and served four terms on his local board of education. After retiring to Aquinnah 15 years ago, he served on the town finance committee before being elected to the board of selectmen.

Ms. Basset emphasized her more than 50 years of experience as an Aquinnah resident. In addition to her bookkeeping work at several up-Island businesses, she has been responsible for payroll at the Home Port Restaurant in Chilmark and the Aquinnah Shop. She also served on the town finance committee.

“I have been disturbed by the disconnect that some people in this town have felt between the town government and the people that it is supposed to serve,” she said. “I have noticed a trend toward development and expansion.”

She noted a desire of town residents “return to a simpler vision of this quiet, rural town.”

In a portion of the forum devoted to cross-questioning, both candidates declined to question the other. But in response to a question from the floor, Mr. Newman said that his priorities for the next three years included making the town’s business infrastructure run more smoothly.

“I’d like to see better communication between the financial areas,” he said, adding: “We have to somehow increase our tax base.”

But Ms. Bassett wasn’t sure if increasing the tax base would be possible. Instead she urged greater restraint in town spending. She singled out the town’s efforts to improve the town hall campus, which she worried would be too ambitious.

“There are definite things that need to be done but we can address those things more reasonably,” she said.

Berta Welch, who owns a shop at Aquinnah Circle, asked how the candidates planned to address increasing property taxes. “It’s getting impossible for my kids to stay here,” she said.

Mr. Newman said the 6.04 per cent increase in the town budget this year was due mainly to the Tri-Town Ambulance Service and the town’s high school assessment — costs that he said were obligatory.

Ms. Basset agreed that some costs were unavoidable but suggested looking to other towns for new ideas. She suggested a slower, fixed-rate property tax for year-round homeowners who do not plan to sell their homes. “That way people who are on fixed income or Social Security or have children that would want to inherit might be able to hang on to their property,” she said.

The central theme of her candidacy was a desire to return to brighter times. “I want to see some good will,” she said. “I want to see some fun back in this town.”

In closing, Mr. Newman said: “I think you know where I am, you know where I’m going.”

Polling hours on Wednesday are from noon to 7 p.m. at the Aquinnah town office building.