Three candidates are seeking a one-year seat on the West Tisbury select board, left vacant by the recent death of Kent Healy. The Gazette emailed questions to the candidates. Their responses follow in alphabetical order, and have been edited slightly for style and clarity. The town election is April 14.

Full name: James W. Klingensmith

Occupation: Part-time locksmith, security professional, retired private investigator.

Previous or current town board service or other relevant roles:

I have had a lifetime of public service as a firefighter, EMT, police officer, Edgartown assistant emergency management director and volunteer for Lee County (Florida) Emergency Operations, rewriting their mitigation plan for FEMA.

I served on the Oak Bluffs personnel board and finance advisory committee, as associate commissioner of elder affairs for the County of Dukes County and as an advocate for the aging population, working with the various councils on aging.

Currently I serve on the board of directors for the MV Center for Living, the West Tisbury personnel board, the affordable housing committee, affordable housing trust fund and the Howes House feasibility study committee.

What are the two or three most critical issues facing West Tisbury over the next three to five years, and what specific efforts would you make to address those?

One of West Tisbury’s highest priorities is affordable housing. Help is needed to find ways of providing for not only our much-needed workforce, but for our children and our aging population. Perhaps shifting the focus to rentals rather than ownership might help it be actually affordable for more people. Currently our over-65 population is 20 per cent, but by 2035 it is projected to be 35 peer cent.

Other communities are working to build affordable housing in other ways, such as purchasing existing homes, upgrading them, and being creative by finding ways to fund them. At the end of the fiscal year, free cash is put toward affordable housing. We cannot use any more town property because the town will need the land, as we are finding out now as we look to provide for the up-Island Council on Aging by bringing the Howes House up to code.

We also must make necessary changes to prepare for our future, to adjust to the rapid climate change that is occurring, and finally maintaining our rural / agricultural way of life.

This is a balancing job. My uncle Elisha Smith, president of the Ag Hall for many years, taught me how to milk cows when I was a young boy and how to care for his animals on his farm at Katama. We must support our farmers in West Tisbury before their farms disappear. I am a member of the Ag Hall and hope to be more supportive of their efforts. Farming is another way of combating climate change and preparedness as it makes us self-supporting. Support our local growers!

West Tisbury has a plan to be completely renewable energy by 2040. Solar is helping but there is a lot of work yet to do. Emergency management will need to continue to work together with the rest of the Island collaboratively on the Islandwide mitigation plan, eaching out more to MEMA and FEMA. State and federal funding is available to help us prepare but only if we include the needs in our plans, then ask for the money when available.

How are you uniquely qualified to serve on the West Tisbury select board?

I have the knowledge and the willingness to listen to the voters and the integrity to serve on the West Tisbury select board.

Full name: Christopher Lyons

Occupation: Facilities and maintenance manager at MV Agricultural Society; owner of Lion’s Den Construction

Previous or current town board service or other relevant roles: West Tisbury delegate, 2018 Massachusetts State Primary

What are the two or three most critical issues facing West Tisbury over the next three to five years?

1. West Tisbury’s portions of the regional school budget, and up-Island school budgets.

2. Affordable housing for our growing young families, our growing elderly population and our local seasonal farm workers. No farms, no food!

3. The local effects of climate change, ie shoreline erosion, contamination of our ponds and increase in ticks and tick-borne disease.

What specific efforts would you make to address those issues if elected?

None of these issues can be addressed overnight. These are issues that need a multi-pronged approach, and with a multi-year plan. That is why this one-year term is a unique opportunity for me. I would get an extra year to learn and listen to people already working on these issues and be prepared when making decisions over the next few years.

How are you uniquely qualified to serve on the West Tisbury select board?

Both my past and current work experiences have given me many opportunities to navigate the needs of multiple groups of people, whether it is a band on the road, or rowdy nightclub patrons, a homeowner’s design needs, or the multiple layers of event planning and coordinating , and the stability of physical structures. I have learned to listen to many and to try to reach compromises that benefit all involved. And we should all be involved with the decisions of moving our town forward into the future.

Full name: Jessica DeRenne Miller. DeRenne comes from my mother’s family, Audrey Straight (nee Kuh) with roots in Savannah, Chicago, and the DC area. Because I grew up in West Tisbury, many people in town know me by my maiden name, Jessica Burt, daughter of Richard Burt.

Occupation: Currently employed as kitchen assistant at the MV Charter School. I worked the previous five years as creamery manager and cheesemaker at Mermaid Farm & Dairy. Prior to that I worked as a server and service manager at 7a Foods.

Previous or current town board service or other relevant roles: I serve on the West Tisbury board of health and am running unopposed for a second three-year term. Ten years ago or so, I served on the West Tisbury affordable housing committee for a short time before stepping down due to family obligations.

What are the two or three most critical issues facing West Tisbury over the next three to five years?

Affordable housing, regional funding of the MVRHS building project and responding to currently tangible and the impending effects of climate change are extremely critical issues facing West Tisbury and the entire Island community.

What specific efforts would you make to address those issues if elected?

If elected, I would be proactive in creating and supporting islandwide collaboration to address our regional issues while looking out for the interests and character of our town and the needs of West Tisbury residents.

How are you uniquely qualified to serve on the West Tisbury select board?

Being 12th generation West Tisbury raised, spending 45 of my 49 years living here, 31 of those years working, 22 of those years raising a family, and knowing a lot of people as a result, I feel I have a perspective which would be valuable on the select board.

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