The Dukes County Commission made a sensible choice this week in appointing James Malkin as the new Steamship Authority governor for Martha’s Vineyard.

A retired business executive with some background in transportation, Mr. Malkin is in his second term as a Chilmark selectman, where he has shown an ability to navigate the often tricky waters of small town politics. Now Mr. Malkin is about to step onto a much larger stage, immediately inheriting the chairmanship of a board that, at least recently, has seemed content to let the boat line’s management call the shots.

The appointment comes at a crucial time, both for Island and for the service that is its lifeline. Chartered in 1960 to provide dependable year-round service to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the mission of the ferry line is at its core unchanged. But of course the Islands and the environment they operate in are not what they were sixty years ago, and neither is the Steamship Authority. Now a $100-million-a-year organization, the SSA continues to transport passengers and cargo to and from the mainland safely and largely dependably, but has been slow to embrace new technology, command structures and communication practices that are not simply expected but required of a 21st century transportation agency.

An outside independent management study done two years ago outlined a litany of internal and operational problems. And while the study led to some personnel changes and spurred the creation of multiple working groups and policy memos, it is unclear whether the organization itself is truly ready to meet the many challenges in front of it.

Communication with passengers and the larger community, including an embarrassing website failure on the day summer reservations opened, continue to dog the boat line. Costs at the Woods Hole terminal shoreside reconstruction project have soared to $94 million from their original estimate of $60 million. While Vineyard roads and infrastructure are under pressure from too much traffic in the summer months, the SSA plans to make a third slip in Woods Hole fully operational in the coming years. Woods Hole villagers are concerned about the traffic too, especially truck traffic, and are clamoring for expanded ferry service from New Bedford. At what cost to Islanders?

The job of any board is to provide direction and oversight for management, and the SSA board of governors is no exception. With a weighted 35 per cent of the vote on the board of governors (Nantucket also has 35 per cent), Martha’s Vineyard’s representative has an outsized opportunity to influence how management defines its priorities and carries them out, with the interests of the Islands for whom the boatline exists clearly in mind.

Mr. Malkin has pledged to delve into the details of how the Steamship Authority operates, set expectations for the future and hold its management accountable. He will have his work cut out for him, but he promises to bring not only skills and leadership, but also time and energy to the job, as county commissioners recognized Wednesday. The vote for Mr. Malkin was unanimous.

The county commission also paused for a word of thanks for outgoing Vineyard SSA governor Marc Hanover, who has stepped down after six terms. The Gazette adds its heartfelt thanks to Mr. Hanover for his loyal service. As the old mariner’s saying goes, wishing you fair winds and following seas.

Meanwhile, welcome, Mr. Malkin. Martha’s Vineyard is counting on you to help turn the ship.