Julianne Vanderhoop and Beverly Wright

Julianne Vanderhoop (left) will challenge Beverly Wright for her seat on the Aquinnah Board of Selectmen

Two candidates vying for a single selectman’s seat in Aquinnah squared off Wednesday night at the old town hall in the smallest town on the Vineyard.

“It’s the job of the selectmen to see that growth happens and that the townspeople are aware of it and don’t get hit with a lot of taxes. Slowly we can accomplish what we started out to do,” said incumbent selectman Beverly Wright who is seeking re-election to a second term.

“I know a lot of families and I am always here in town, and both young and old are looking forward to calling on the community to rebuild,” said Julianne Vanderhoop who is challenging Ms. Wright for her seat.

The comments came during a candidates forum sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard League of Women Voters.

The annual town election is May 14.

At the forum Ms. Wright stressed her experience over the past three years while Ms. Vanderhoop emphasized helping the younger generation.

Ms. Wright has been a selectman for the past three years and was the chairman of the tribe from 1992 until 2004. She has served on the Save the Gay Head Lighthouse committee, town finance committee and was town treasurer for one term in the 1980s.

Ms. Vanderhoop is a member of the board of health, has served on the tribal education committee for seven years, the advisory committee to the Chilmark School and the Tri-Town Ambulance committee. She owns and operates the Orange Peel Bakery in Aquinnah.

On the issues the two candidates are not all that far apart. Both are members of the tribe, both speak movingly of the project to move the Gay Head Light and its historic significance. And both are strongly opposed to building a casino in Aquinnah.

“When I was chairman of the tribe for five terms I advocated against a gaming facility in town and I still feel the same way,” Ms. Wright said. “As a selectman I represent tribal and non-tribal and not one person has ever come up to me and said they were interested or looked forward to having a casino in Aquinnah.”

Ms. Vanderhoop agreed. “The tribe and the town are both home to me, as well as Beverly,” she said. “I am 100 per cent against the casino coming to Aquinnah and that is something that I want everyone to know. I think that we have a fair relationship right now [between town and tribe] if not better than the prior relationship. I think that we definitely can work with that.”

Candidates fielded questions on an array of topics, including the recent lawsuit over ownership of the Vanderhoop fishing shack.

Ms. Wright said she is seeking re-election to finish work she has begun during her first term.

“I think the past three years have been very fruitful,” she said. “I’d like to continue.”

Ms. Vanderhoop portrayed herself as a potential new face of small town government.

“I am very concerned with our community being able to live here and young people being able to afford to come back here and elderly being able to live here as they age and retire and return themselves to this earth,” she said.

Polls are open next Wednesday from noon to 7 p.m.

by Remy Tumin