Following interviews last month with 10 candidates for the Martha’s Vineyard representative on the Steamship Authority board of governors, the Dukes County Commission on Wednesday unanimously chose Chilmark selectman James Malkin.

Mr. Malkin was among seven men and three women who sought to replace longtime representative Marc Hanover for the Island’s seat on the boat line governing board.

The position is one of critical importance to Islanders, commissioner John Cahill said.

“The Steamship is part of our collective DNA, there is no way around it,” Mr. Cahill said. “As Islanders we live with a boat schedule in our pockets, or on our smartphones. It’s our lifeline.”

The Vineyard needs a representative who has experience running a multi-million dollar business, understands transportation issues and is experienced in managing change, he continued.

“In my mind, without question, that is Mr. Malkin,” he said.

Commissioner John Alley also voiced his approval of Mr. Malkin’s candidacy.

“It is my opinion that Jim Malkin of Chilmark presented the best approach to those issues affecting us, and seems to be the best person to represent us,” Mr. Alley said.

“Thank you for your votes of support,” Mr. Malkin told commissioners after paper ballots were tallied by county manager Martina Thornton.

“I now have a very big target on my back,” he added.

Commissioner Leon Brathwaite, who was among the candidates for the SSA post, recused himself from taking part in the decision and watched the voting from the audience in the Vineyard Transit Authority meeting room. In addition to Mr. Cahill and Mr. Alley, commissioners Keith Chatinover, Tristan Israel and Christine Todd took part in the vote.

Mr. Malkin will succeed Mr. Hanover, who did not seek reappointment. County commissioners thanked Mr. Hanover for his service, which included 15 years on the governing board preceded by two years on the port council.

“He had a good run,” Mr. Cahill said.

The change of Vineyard board member comes at a time of heightened pressure and public scrutiny for the boat line, which holds a critical place in the life of the two Islands. Two years into a sweeping reconstruction project at the Woods Hole terminal currently budgeted at close to $94 million, the SSA has come under fire from its Woods Hole neighbors for many aspects of the project, including the new ticket building. A number of mechanical breakdowns and ferry cancellations this year have left Islanders questioning the reliability of the boat line. And a major website crash on the opening day for summer car reservations in January added fuel to growing discontentment over the SSA’s sometimes awkward handling of public relations and communications matters.

Mr. Malkin said Wednesday he would work to get other board members to recognize the seriousness with which Islanders take their boat line.

“It will need to be collegial, it will need to be constructive, but it will need to be done pretty rapidly,” he said. “This is not a time for the Steamship Authority to be complacent.”

Speaking with the Gazette after the vote, Mr. Malkin said he wants to see the Steamship Authority meet its core mission of serving the Islands efficiently.

“From a Martha’s Vineyard standpoint, I’m not sure we have an efficient transportation system for people and goods at the moment,” he said.

When he takes his seat at the next monthly SSA meeting March 17 in Falmouth, Mr. Malkin will also pick up the gavel; by statute, the Martha’s Vineyard governor chairs the board this year. Appointed by local governments, the five members of the SSA board oversee the boat line’s management and operations. The positions are unpaid, but come with free ferry transportation.

While the SSA’s full name is the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, the Islands come first on the board, with the Nantucket and Vineyard members each wielding a weighted 35 per cent vote. Barnstable, Falmouth and New Bedford governors have a 10 per cent vote each.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, the commission appointed Fred Fournier, Geoffrey Wheeler and John Ensor to three seats on the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission

Six men had sought appointment to the airport commission, taking part in interviews over two meetings last month.

Mr. Brathwaite rejoined the commission to vote on the airport commission appointments.

Mr. Fournier and Mr. Wheeler each received votes from all six commissioners at the meeting. Mr. Ensor received three votes.

Commission chairman Gretchen Tucker Underwood has been absent for the process. Vice Chair Israel presided over the meeting as acting chairman.