AYER -- Selectman Jannice Livingston just wants to hear what you have to say.

As she rounds up her first term as selectman, she says she wants to make sure Ayer residents have someone who will actually listen to them.

"I've always spent my life pretty much raising my hand to either serve this country or serve this town, and I like doing that and I think I can still be an asset to this town," she said.

Livingston's matter-of-fact, straight-to-the-point personality could stem from her 20-plus years in the navy. She often sits quietly in meetings, saying little but watching everything.

"I'm not just hearing what they're saying," she said. "I'm hearing how they worded it, which sometimes I find very interesting, and I'm watching their body language."

Livingston identified property enforcement as one of the town's most pressing issues.

She said some people feel the board is overstepping its bounds, but they are forgetting the whole complaint process, which requires input from the Board of Health, the building commissioner, the police department and the fire department.

She noted that there has to be a "legitimately found problem" in order for the issue to reach the Board of Selectmen.

"I think sometimes people forget the steps that come forward, because they all of a sudden see it in an open meeting and they're feeling like it's a violation," she said.


As a person who likes to listen, Livingston said her biggest pet peeve is when someone comes before the board and doesn't get the chance to speak.

"I get sometimes a little upset when some selectman, because they may know the issue, decides to do the talking for the person who's come in front of us," she said. "Or when you go to ask the person who comes in front of us a question, and a selectman answers the question."

Livingston also cites coherency problems with the board.

In the past, she argued, the board has taken a vote but a selectman has decided to circumvent it, alluding to an incident last year in which Selectman Pauline Conley was accused of removing executive session documents from Town Hall. The accusation caused Conley's removal as chair.

"We are supposed to be working as a board, as a team," Livingston said. "We are supposed to uphold the vote of the board."

When it comes to the town's ongoing issue with Treasurer Stephanie Gintner, Livingston said she doesn't understand why the issue has gotten as big as it has.

"I will be honest, I really don't get it," she said. "I don't really comprehend what this has all been about."

She hates the fact that it keeps reappearing, and argued that everybody should "grow up and stop it."

"I've met these two women, I've talked to these two women, and my vibe is they're two nice women who for whatever reason can't get along," she said. "Everybody needs to stop it, it just really makes your eyes roll."

But there's "no easy answer" to the problem with the school district, which is struggling to find money for Shirley's half of the budget.

"We can't keep asking Ayer to pay more," she said. "But again, what do you do? If there's an issue, do you punish the children? The kids?"

The whole issue raises a question mark on the idea of regionalization, she said.

"Didn't anybody figure this out? Wasn't there a long-term plan?" she asked.

Ayer's Finance Committee has a long-term plan and is "on top of everything," she added.

"What happened in Shirley?" she asked. "Didn't they see that there was going to be a problem?"

On the ever-present issue of Devens, Livingston insists that the former army post should just become its own town.

"They don't want to be a part of us, and nobody can seem to agree as to even posing a question to the towns to see what they want," she said.

If Devens presents its case for becoming a town in a clear way, the voters of Ayer might understand and accept it, she said. 

Livingston said there are a lot of little things she would like to see corrected with the board in the future, including working without paper.

A lot of money is being wasted printing out packets for each selectman at each meeting, she said.

"If the packet is on the town website so that you can see it and you're looking at the same packet I'm looking at, why do I have to have a paper copy?" she asked.

But her overall goal is simply to "do right by the voters," she said.

"I do worry about all the residents in this town, and quite honestly, I've had some sleepless nights over it," she said. "It's very daunting to know that your policies could affect someone in a bad way, and you hope that they don't."

Livingston has no personal agenda, she said, but only hopes to listen to what the voters want.

"I'm here for you, no personal agendas other than to serve you," she said. "And I hope that you'll allow me to do it again."