Kent Healy, the West Tisbury selectman and longtime civil engineer who had been a pillar of the rural agricultural town for decades, died Sunday at his home after a brief illness. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by the West Tisbury town office early Sunday evening.

Mr. Healy first ran for selectman in 2017, unseating a three-term incumbent in an upset town election that year. He was re-elected in 2020, easily beating a challenger.

A familiar figure in his dented but impeccably maintained old pickup truck, he was a man of few words who had deep knowledge of West Tisbury, where his own history dated to the late 1940s. In the summer of 1952 he worked pulling oyster drags for the Quansoo Shellfish Company. He later served in the U.S. Coast Guard, and met his wife, the former Maureen Flanders, in Menemsha in 1956. They had five children. He taught civil engineering at the University of Connecticut for 18 years, and moved to West Tisbury permanently with his family in 1983.

Maureen Healy died this past May.

In an interview with the Gazette when he ran for selectman the first time, Mr. Healy remarked that as a civil engineer he had worked on all the town buildings at one time or another. He was also well known in his role as the town-appointed caretaker for the Mill Pond dam, and had fiercely opposed removal of the dam, a long-running topic of debate in West Tisbury. He also served as a Tisbury Great Pond commissioner.

In the interview, Mr. Healy was asked why he wanted to run for selectman at age 84.

“I’ve been here long enough to take a turn,” was his reply.

But he also took the high road when it came to his opponent.

“I’m not running against him, I’m running for the town,” Mr. Healy said.

The select board issued a statement Monday offering condolences to the Healy family, and remembering Mr. Healy for the many hats he wore.

“Kent was a valued member of the select board, offering a straightforward approach to town issues tempered with kindness and compassion. Among his many gifts, Kent lent his engineering skills and expertise to the town on hundreds of projects over many years, and was ‘keeper of the dam’ at the Mill Pond for the worldly sum of $1 a year,” the statement said. It continued:

“He was a monitor and caretaker of the physical environment, regularly spending hours measuring and documenting the rise and fall of the water along Mill Brook and at Tisbury Great Pond. Kent was always there when you needed him, and often before, and lived his life with humor and humility. A man of unfailing decency, he will forever be missed.”

In the 2017 interview, Mr. Healy cited education as a high priority.

“Society has no greater obligation than the education of the young,” he said. “Now, you try to do it efficiently. But it’s more important than town buildings, it’s more important than roads, it’s more important than Mill Pond, it’s more important than anything.”

He is survived by a daughter, four sons and eight grandchildren.

Arrangements are incomplete.

Updated to include statement from the town select board.