With annual town meeting season barely a month out, political season is quietly under way on Martha’s Vineyard. Island town halls are hives of activity, as select board members and their hard-working town managers make final edits to town meeting warrants before they go to the printer.

If you’ve been standing on the sidelines, now is a good time to start watching how local government works and consider how you can join in.

This year only a handful of new faces will enter the political scene.

In Oak Bluffs three candidates are running for two opens seats on the select board, after board members Brian Packish and Ryan Ruley decided not to seek election. Mr. Packish is a two-term select board members and something of a political veteran in town, having previously led the town planning board for five years. Mr. Ruley leaves the select board after serving a single term.

In Chilmark, two candidates are seeking to succeed select board member Warren Doty, who will step down after eight terms.

Openings on the Edgartown and West Tisbury select boards are uncontested. Candidates have another 10 days to contest an incumbent for a select board seat in Tisbury and Aquinnah.

Participation in local government starts with attending town meeting, but can also include seeking appointment to the many town boards and committees always looking for volunteers.

Mr. Doty’s first run for office was as a write-in candidate for select board and he lost. Undeterred, in 1999 he took out papers to get on the ballot and was elected. Since then he has quietly helped shepherd his small up-Island town through many years of growth and changing needs. He’s been a tireless advocate for working fishermen in Menemsha, affordable housing and better schools, among other things.

In a 2008 interview with the Gazette as he prepared to run for a fourth term, Mr. Doty reflected on why he chose to serve.

“I like the idea of town government controlling the town and shaping the future of the town,” he said. “Years ago, we had the phrase, ‘Small is beautiful.’ Decentralized decision-making and participatory government. Chilmark is the perfect example.”

With the average age of Island select board members now standing at roughly 62, Martha’s Vineyard needs a new generation of Warren Dotys to help shape the future. 

The towns’ governing cycles begin again this spring when town meetings convene starting in mid-April to take up issues large and small. It’s an excellent time to get engaged with the problems and opportunities facing the Island, and to make a first step toward getting involved.