In 1979 the Chilmark selectmen took a chance and appointed him as town police chief. He was 23. It was not a unanimous vote.

But the bet paid off and Timothy Rich stayed on the job for 30 years. He retired in 2009 and is now back on the job again, albeit briefly, serving as acting chief while the town searches for a permanent head of the department.

“When do you actually become an old-timer,” he mused in an interview last week at his modest, comfortable home in the rugged south coastal perimeters of Chilmark, with views stretching across the moors that run to Squibnocket Pond and Noman’s in the distance. A dusting of snow had fallen the night before and slate-colored February clouds scudded across the sky. He recalled the early years on the job, and even before that, when he was in second grade and wrote a paper about what he wanted to be when he grew up. The list was short: police officer, fireman, farmer.

“Looking back, I think I’ve done everything I wanted to do,” he said.

Mr. Rich: "I say one accident is too many." — Jeanna Shepard

Like many who call themselves Islanders today, Tim Rich came to the Vineyard for a summer job and stayed. He was trained as a firefighter and first responder in his late teen years when he was a kid living just outside New York city. His best friend growing up was Steve Flanders, whose family lived nearby. The Flanders family had deep Vineyard roots and when job circumstances changed, they moved back to the Island. In 1977 Steve told Tim about a summer police officer job in Chilmark. Tim came to the Vineyard and police chief Andy Parker gave him the job. He had no police experience but his experience as a first responder was an asset on the Island, where the population was sparse compared with today and there was only a handful of trained EMTs.

He actually had two job offers; as things turned out Oak Bluffs offered him a job too. “At six-seven they had a place for me patrolling Circuit avenue,” he deadpanned, referring to his height. But he had already committed to working in Chilmark.

Two years later Andy Parker left for a mainland job and Mr. Rich was named chief. It was controversial: one selectman wanted to hire the sergeant from Vineyard Haven who had earned his stripes, not the kid from New York who had only been a patrolman. But the other two selectmen went with their gut and voted to appoint him. In a final twist, he almost didn’t take the job. He had an offer from the New York city fire department to come back.

He decided to stay.

“I’m what you call a washashore,” he said. “But I’m an avid fisherman . . . and Martha’s Vineyard was a good fit for me on all other counts.”

Completing that second grade list, he became a farmer too, spending his retirement years tending 70 acres owned by his neighbor. He is also a handyman, filling a needed niche by doing small jobs for people who are elderly. And there’s one more thing.

“If I couldn’t do any of those things, I always wanted to be a good father, and I think I’ve fulfilled that too . . . I have three children who are 13th-generation Islanders,” he said, referring to his first wife’s family.

He retired eight years ago at age 54, said he knew it was time. “I didn’t want to become a burned-out, jaded, us-against them policeman,” he said. “I needed to begin to live as a civilian. You know, there’s a saying that everyone always thinks the bad stuff is going to happen to the other guy. In law enforcement we get to deal with the other guys. And it can have an effect on you.”

These days, at 62 Tim Rich is also on a mission: he is at the forefront of an effort to eliminate moped rentals on Martha’s Vineyard. His passion for the issue is a perfect storm of sorts, born of his years as a police officer, first responder and father.

“When I retired I really considered it unfinished business,” he said.

During his three decades in police work he responded to countless moped accidents, some minor, some serious. He has one vivid memory of a July 4 accident in town in the 1990s where he was a first responder. He remembers going back to the station that day and being told by officers that his shirt had bloody handprints on the back. They were the handprints of a child who had clung to him as he administered first aid to her father.

Soon after, he paid a visit to Sam Feldman, a Chilmark resident who was organizing an Island effort against mopeds that continues today. “I felt strongly that something needed to be done,” Tim said. “I had to be careful, I knew because I was in law enforcement. But I thought some good would come out of this.”

Two years ago his own son was involved in a fatal moped accident on State Road near the Chilmark/West Tisbury town line. His son was working at the Grey Barn farm and driving a pickup truck out of the farm. His passenger was a young woman who worked at the farm. A moped with a single driver was headed their way and lost control. They pulled the truck off the road as far as possible to avoid the collision, hemmed in by a stone wall. But it was not enough. The moped driver died at the scene. No one was found at fault; the moped driver had simply lost control, police said, and the pickup truck was unfortunately on the road in the same spot.

Then there was the accident last summer involving two young women on a moped and a dump truck on Barnes Road. The women were day trippers from New Hampshire, both athletes at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell. The driver lost part of her leg in the accident.

“Every time one of these accidents happens, it stirs everything up again,” Mr. Rich admitted. But he added: “You can talk about the number of accidents. But that’s just a number. I say one accident is too many, because you have no idea afterward how many people are affected. The people who were involved in the accident, the first responders, the people who saw it, and more . . . the tentacles extend out to family, friends and how their lives change.”

The number of moped rentals on the Vineyard has dwindled since the 1990s. Mr. Rich and his wife Laurisa are helping to lead an effort to eliminate them altogether. Among other things, the group is working to put a nonbinding question on town ballots in the spring, and has launched an investigation of rental license bylaws and violations in Oak Bluffs. (Laurisa Rich owns a family home in Oak Bluffs and they are taxpayers in that town.)

Last week the Gazette launched an independent survey through its Community Surveys project to gauge current public opinion about the moped issue.

Mr. Rich concluded: “At the end of the day, moped rentals have no place on Martha’s Vineyard — and I’m clear that I am talking about rentals.”