Fluoride Action Network

Experience or New Direction Anchors Edgartown Selectmen Race

Source: Vineyard Gazette | April 5th, 2018 | By Sara Brown

An incumbent running on his 24-year record of service to the town will face off against a political newcomer promising change in a two-way selectmen race at next week’s Edgartown election.

Arthur Smadbeck is running for his ninth term on the board. He faces a challenge from Gail Gardner, a longtime Edgartown resident.

Polls are open on Thursday, April 12 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the town hall meeting room.

In phone interviews with the Gazette this week the candidates were united in opposition to a proposal to add fluoride to the town water supply and concern about affordable housing, but offered different perspectives on the issues.

Mr. Smadbeck, the owner of Priestly Smadbeck and Mone Real Estate sales in Edgartown, has served on the board of selectmen since 1994. He has also served on the personnel board and as wastewater commissioner. He has lived on the Vineyard for about 28 years and raised his five sons in Edgartown. He is a brand new grandfather.

“I still feel that I can bring my experience to bear, to work on some of the problems that are facing the Vineyard right now,” Mr. Smadbeck told the Gazette. He said two big issues are related: the burgeoning elder population and scarce affordable housing. “The elder population, many of them need affordable housing,” he said. “Many of the people who help take care of them and are bringing some of the programs to help the elderly, we have to have places for them to live. Nurses at the hospital, police, teachers. It’s a big problem.”

Mr. Smadbeck said he wants to continue representing selectmen on the Health Aging Task force, and pointed to affordable housing success stories in Edgartown like the Morgan Woods and Jenney Way projects. He is interested in the idea of a housing fund similar to the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank.

He said other key issues include the health of coastal ponds and sea level rise.

“Another important aspect of the job of selectman is to never forget that you’re dealing with public funds, and you always have the best interest of the town at heart, which I do,” he said.

Mr. Smadbeck said he is against adding fluoride to town water.

Some people are strongly against it, he said, and there are other options for giving fluoride to children, like fluoride pills and toothpaste. “I think that’s a better way of doing it than just pouring it wholesale into the water supply,” he said.

Mr. Smadbeck defended the recent police chief selection process, which has been criticized by some residents, including Ms. Gardner.

“We tried to make this as transparent as you could possibly make it, with as much arm’s length, so that it didn’t have the selectmen in charge of everything,” he said, noting that a previous process that focused on hiring from within the department was also unpopular with residents. The new chief, Bruce McNamee, was “a home run,” he said.

“I don’t know how we could have done it any more of a transparent or good way,” he said. “I always come from working for the best interest of the town of Edgartown, and over the years I’ve been on this board, there’s two things I’m proud of. One is my ability to create consensus and two is I consider myself to be a very fair person. And you can’t do more than that.”

Ms. Gardner is a technology teacher at the Edgartown school, where she has taught for 10 years. She also writes the Edgartown column for the Martha’s Vineyard Times. She has lived in Edgartown for 50 years, since she was three. She is the mother of three children who all attend the regional high school.

Ms. Gardner said she decided to run after becoming involved in recent issues, including opposing Eversource herbicide spraying. She also “jumped in feet first” with drawing attention to the town’s police chief search.

“I don’t know that there was enough community input in it,” she told the Gazette, adding that she had no issue with the final selection. She said she would have liked to see a public meeting at the beginning of the search for residents to talk about community needs. “I think that was lacking here. I think from the beginning it made people uncomfortable,” she said. “It’s just the process, and I think the town, as any small town, has been lax in a lot of the policies and procedures and so hiring procedures that are universal through the town would be good.”

After getting involved she decided to run for political office for the first time.

“I have absolutely no right to complain if I’m not willing to make a difference to help the town or do something differently,” she said. “I believe wholeheartedly in put up or shut up.”

Ms. Gardner said she thinks housing is a key issue facing Edgartown. “I have big concerns about people having to leave here because they can’t find housing,” she said. “I’d like to work with people to find a solution to that.”

Other concerns are school safety, health issues like Lyme disease, and opioid use.

Ms. Gardner said she is against fluoridating town water. “I think there are alternate ways to spend money to get fluoride to people that need it and want it, as opposed to spending all that money and getting it to people that don’t necessary want it, “she said.

She said she is willing to be accountable and would bring a different voice to the board. “I’m not trying to say anything negative of the current [selectmen],” she said. “Change is good, [they’ve] been in office for a long time.

“I would bring a new perspective and a different perspective. I’ve been a single mother on the Island, I dealt with the housing crisis at one point, I have an elderly father . . . that gives me perspective about how difficult it is to make ends meet on the Island.”

“I just want to serve the people of the town, openly and honestly and to the best of the ability,” she said. “And it’s a great opportunity to learn from people who know the job well.”

*Original article online at https://vineyardgazette.com/news/2018/04/05/edgartown

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