AYER -- Michael Pattenden wants to give people a choice.

He's the only new face in the five-candidate race for three selectmen seats, taking a shot at his second run to add some alternative to the field.

"The current four selectmen do not seem to get along at all well, and it would seem to me that if three of those four were elected for the new Board of Selectmen -- depending on which three -- it could be even worse," he said.

But the other reason he's running, he said, is the accelerating pace of town taxes.

"There are a lot of people in town who are below the poverty level," he explained.

Pattenden has some experience with town finances, having taken over one member's place on the Finance Committee for a little over a year. He also served on the Conservation Committee for about the same time.

Finances are clearly among Ayer's most pressing future issues, he said.

"There is a movement towards equalizing the tax rate for both commercial and residential property," he said. "The increase in residential taxes will be brutal."

He also cited the project for the East Main Street water line and the work needed for roads as projects that should draw a bill for the town.

Pattenden was among a small crowd who attended the selectmen's meeting in which the board told farmer Ralph McNiff to clean up his property on Westford Road.

He said he would like to see the land cleaned up, but he is unsure about the legal path that the town is taking.


In property enforcement in general, he said he would like to see a less harsh approach.

"I think the town is pushing it harder in the legal sense, and they're not doing anything friendly towards helping them," he said.

If elected, he would like to see the board work with targeted property owners on a "friendly basis rather than an antagonistic basis."

Pattenden sees the town's issues with Treasurer Stephanie Gintner as an interdepartmental issue that should have been left to Gintner to work out.

"The board of selectmen is indeed in charge of virtually everything in town, but they could've been a little more gentle there as well," he said. "It seems terrible that a town elected official should have to take out a lawsuit against the town. It shouldn't have ever got that far."

During his last run, Pattenden admitted that the subject of schools was where he lost the election.

"I think most people, when we're talking about the regionalization of schools, thought that they would get a better school system at lower costs than the two individual school systems," he said. "It clearly hasn't worked out that way."

Pattenden called the school budget's initial suggested increase of $1.2 million, and the $700,000 increase each year after that, exorbitant.

"If a child entered kindergarten now, by the time they graduated the schools, the budget for the town of Ayer would've doubled," he said. "That just doesn't seem right."

On the issue of Devens, Pattenden said it will eventually become its own town.

"I'm not at all convinced that Ayer should take its portion back, even if we could," he said. "I'm worried about the finances. I've been assured that it would pay for itself. But I'm not actually convinced."

He said Devens would require a lot of work, including plowing roads and looking after the fields, and he is just not convinced that Ayer needs that problem.

Pattenden, an British native who moved to Ayer in 1999 from Acton, keeps a humble approach in his run for selectman. Before the deadline for nomination papers closed, Pattenden was encouraging anyone else to pull papers as well in order to give the town a choice.

"I don't think in any way that I am the best person. I don't think any politician is the best person," he said. "But I just think the town has to have a choice, instead of voting for three out of the existing four, and the best I can do is to run for office."