WELLFLEET — John Wolf pulls up to the Flying Fish in a massive Mercedes work van, fitted with disproportionately small magnetic campaign signs and a license plate that reads TRBONE (a tribute to his decades-long career as a jazz trombonist).
Wolf, who is “Wolfie” to his friends, has just spent a couple of hours meeting with the Herring River Restoration Committee. “That’s an issue I was not really up on,” he says. “I had a very vague idea of what that was about. I really learned a lot.”
Wolf sees his lack of experience in town affairs as one of his greatest strengths, because he loves to learn new things. He positions himself as the most pragmatic candidate in the race. “I’m not going to guess,” he says. “I’m going to actually do my homework.”
A native of Washington, D.C. who lived in St. Louis for 23 years, Wolf fell in love with the Cape during family trips as a child. In 2010, he moved to Wellfleet full-time, and today he works as an HVAC and restaurant mechanic, serves on the Marina Advisory Committee, is a commercial operator and licensed captain in the harbor, and is an active participant at town meetings.
Wolf is also a moderator of the occasionally controversial Wellfleet Community Space Facebook group. He does not think remaining a moderator while running for office is a conflict of interest, but says he would step down if elected.
When someone (who Wolf would not name) approached him about running for the select board, Wolf said, “You must think I have a vacancy of the cranium.” But he changed his mind and entered the race as a write-in candidate, in part because nobody new was running. “That’s not healthy,” he says.
Wellfleet’s financial troubles were another factor in Wolf’s decision to run. “The financial problems don’t have one single cause, but the nexus of it lies with the select board,” he says. Though the town administrator is directly responsible for town finances, the administrator answers to the select board, and Wolf thinks that board has not done a good job asking questions or requiring accountability.
Wolf proposes to put the town’s auditing contract out for bid, rather than staying with the same firm, which Wellfleet has done for 25 years.
Wolf describes affordable housing as a “critical need on all sorts of levels” and says, without providing specifics, “We’ve got to find a way to streamline this. It shouldn’t be taking so long.” He says he wants to increase transparency in town government by requiring that all board and committee meetings are videotaped, and he proposes improving the “flawed” town administrator hiring process by selecting a search committee publicly and strictly adhering to their recommendations.
Wolf knows that his views on national politics are a subject of gossip. He is a self-described “small-L libertarian,” and brings up unprompted a recent social media post that said, “Just what we need, a gun-toting Trump supporter on the select board.” Wolf flatly rejects the characterization and calls the focus on national party affiliations a distraction. “If they want to not vote for me because they think I voted for Joe Biden or they think I voted for Donald Trump, then that’s a vote that I don’t need.”
Though Wolf won’t be telling anyone who he voted for in 2020 anytime soon, he will be on the campaign trail in the coming days “becoming as well informed as possible” while repeatedly explaining the proper way to fill out a write-in ballot.