With nine office-seekers and nine seats, the race for the Martha’s Vineyard Commission may have seemed unsuspenseful to those not familiar with the intricate makeup of the powerful regional planning agency.
But three of the candidates were running from Tisbury, and the commission’s enabling legislation requires that each Island town elect at least one and not more than two representatives in the at-large election every two years.
“It was a little confusing this year, because Chilmark didn’t have anybody on the ballot,” said architect Ben Robinson, one of the two victors in the Tisbury race.
Mr. Robinson, a Tisbury planning board member who has been the town’s annually appointed representative to the commission for the past four years, narrowly unseated eight-year incumbent Josh Goldstein by fewer than 65 votes in the unofficial election night tally: 5,974 to 5,911.
Trucker and car dealer Trip Barnes, who also has served four two-year terms on the commission, was re-elected with 7,482 votes.
“He’s unstoppable,” Mr. Goldstein said Wednesday morning from his office at the Mansion House Hotel, referring to Mr. Barnes.
Speaking with the Gazette Wednesday, Mr. Robinson said he viewed his election as a referendum on the climate and energy policy activism he has engaged in for years on the Vineyard.
“I wanted to see how well the Island supported what I was doing,” he said.
“I’m happy to have won, and I’m glad to see that Trip’s in there as well. As much as we have some ideological differences, I respect his opinion.”
Mr. Barnes voiced regret that Mr. Goldstein was not re-elected. “There’s only a couple of us [on the commission] with a businessman slant,” he told the Gazette by phone.
As for energy policy, Mr. Barnes said he sees nuclear power as the solution, once systems are standardized.
“All the stuff we’ve been hanging on the roofs and putting in the water, we’ll be taking to the dump,” he said.
Mr. Goldstein could continue serving on the commission after his term ends Dec. 31, if the Tisbury select board appoints him to the annual position currently held by Mr. Robinson.
But Wednesday was too soon to make any projections, Mr. Goldstein said.
“I’m happy to let the dust settle,” he said.
Now 41, Mr. Goldstein originally ran for the MVC in 2012, a couple of years after returning to the Island to help run his family’s hotel.
“Whether people like it or hate it, the commission wields an incredible amount of power,” he said. “It needed someone who was under 60 and still working.”
The commission still falls short of representing the Island’s diversity, Mr. Goldstein also said. “Our friends in the Brazilian community are poorly represented. Our friends in the trades are under-represented. The Island needs more of its young people to be involved in politics, Mr. Goldstein said.
“Most of us young people are working to be able to stay here, but the commission needs to do a better job of educating people about what it does, how it does it and how they can get involved,” he said. He continued:
“That Ben [Robinson, also 41] got involved, I consider a win . . . that there was someone else under 50.”
Mr. Barnes, 78, also said he sees a need for change on the commission.
“We need some new blood,” he said. “It’s the same old, same old.”
Mr. Barnes said he would like to see the MVC adopt term limits.
Also elected to the commission were Jeffrey Agnoli and incumbent Christina Brown from Edgartown, incumbents E. Douglas Sederholm and Linda Sibley from West Tisbury, incumbent Fred Hancock from Oak Bluffs, and incumbent James Vercruysse for Aquinnah. There was no one on the ballot running from Chilmark after incumbent Rob Doyle decided not to seek re-election, but write-in candidate Jay Grossman received 47 votes, and is expected to take the seat.