In the middle of a women’s conference at a swanky downtown Atlanta hotel, former Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribal Chairperson, Beverly Wright, gets a surprising phone call. It’s the folks back home saying she has been elected Selectman for Aquinnah, the inverted apostrophe-shaped town at the southeastern tip of Martha’s Vineyard.
Even though Beverly is no stranger to the election process – she held the term of Chairperson for five terms from 1992 – 2004 – she is clearly moved and touched by the call. “I won,” she says with a stunned expression.
Her reaction makes sense when you hear the story behind her attempt at a sixth term as Chairperson. She lost, to put it bluntly—by 15 votes.
So this feels like her moment for redemption – and perhaps, reinvention.
“I loved my job as chair, so I was devastated when I lost,” she says, “but eventually I began to think there is a whole world outside of tribal politics. I care about Martha’s Vineyard, and I am a part of the tribe, and there are all these issues between the two. So I said, ‘I’m going to bring cohesiveness and make sure that gap doesn’t get any wider.’”
And now, as a member of the three-person board of Selectmen, which acts as the executive arm of the town’s government, Beverly will have the perfect opportunity to bring about widespread change. Her focus will be on increasing access to affordable housing, regionalizing shared services and bolstering revenue-generating events around town.
Beverly wants Aquinnah to always leave a sweet taste in the mouth. “I want the town to be the kind of place my grandchildren will want to grow up in,” she says. So she plans to work hard to raise the Vineyard’s prosperity and desirability and ensure that the Wampanoag’s 10,000-year legacy there continues with power and strength.