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When I attended the Habitat for Humanity home dedication, I saw everything that Ayer is capable of being. I witnessed what one would expect of a small town where good fellowship and caring for others is the norm.

This is why I coined the phrase, “I care about Ayer” a few years back.

I saw this in last years’ Fourth of July day fair before tragic events cast a pall on the coming-together of our community. I have come to know that we are well-served by many of our Town Hall staff and have formed lasting friendships with some of those citizens who selflessly dedicate much of their spare time to improving our community.

But having spent the last 13 years of my life in construction management, I am aware of a pitfall and infection that poisons the atmosphere of group actions.

It is the toxic employee. One individual who’s conduct is so negative that the morale of the many is affected. I am also aware of a study that attributes this phenomena to small local governments. Let’s call them the toxic volunteer or elected official.

You know the signs: A town official who denigrates a person’s personality at a local bar or civic club just because they may disagree with them on some issue.

A regulatory board more beholden to their “cronies” than the citizens they were elected to serve.

It is those of whom I wrote in my “Open Meeting Law Vigilantes” letter earlier this year. Unlike the newly formed Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee who educates and not denigrates, these types of people proclaim themselves to be some kind of moral authority over town government through intimidation.

It is these toxic individuals who show up for one night of a town meeting to shoot down some groups’ work of six to eight months as though town meeting was just a penny arcade shooting gallery instead of the way that we conduct democracy.

It can even be things reported in a local paper, like cheap shots at elected officials, that will keep feeding the negative atmosphere.

But at the core of the problem is inevitably an individual whose purpose should be to serve the citizen’s. This individual, with self-righteous blindness, couches everything in anger and ridicule. This is what creates this climate. Very toxic indeed and a tremendous waste of time. But most of all, it serves no one.