AYER – After 34 years of public service on various boards in Ayer, Paul Bresnahan has, for the most part, become a private citizen again.
Though he plans to continue representing Ayer on Devens-related issues, he stepped away from the Board of Selectmen last week, choosing not to seek re-election after nine years on the board.
Before becoming a selectman, Bresnahan was on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 25 years and the Finance Committee (then called the advisory board) from 1982 to 1986.
At other times, he helped establish the Ayer Youth Basketball Program and served four years on the Ayer High School Council.
Asked about how it all happened, Bresnahan answered with the verbal equivalent of a shrug.
“Frankly, I don’t have a simple answer,” he said. “Generally, it was an interest in the welfare of the community. I hoped I could make a contribution.”
Looking back on his tenure from his office on Main Street, Bresnahan said many things have turned out well for Ayer in the past 10 years. From initial concerns over the closure of Devens and an economic downturn in the early ’90s, he said property values have rebounded and the military jobs have been replaced faster than expected.
“I’d say people were concerned in the mid-90s about the significant negative economic impact caused by the closure of Devens,” he said. “That impact proved to be short term.”
Asked if Ayer is continuing to move in the right direction, Bresnahan said he thinks so. He cited important upgrades to the historic downtown including investments in Town Hall, the Page Moore Building and old Bookberry location on the corner of Washington and Main streets. The result is an aesthetically pleasing downtown that is more vibrant.
On the management side of town, he cited ongoing investments in the town’s utilities as positives. In the late ’90s, the town had a moratorium on new sewer hookups, which was rectified by a major upgrade of the town facilities and reaching an agreement with the regional treatment plant at Devens. With the water district, steps are being taken to improve the system’s capacity and maintain its quality.
The town has maintained a good crop of department heads, Bresnahan said, which bring stability and professionalism to town operations.
Even so, he acknowledged that the selectmen have a long and growing list of business for a board that meets every two weeks, but he said that’s the task.
“I guess the biggest challenge is balancing the day-to-day issues with the strategic issues,” he said.
Another aspect was serving out his last year on a board that developed a reputation of contentiousness, which Bresnahan mentioned in passing without addressing directly.
“I’ve attempted to bring a sense of team to the board,” he said. “In a very constructive sense, I hope the new board works hard at being a team.”
On a group that saw many 3-2 votes last year, Bresnahan often had the tally that moved between two firm voting blocks. He explained the reason why succinctly.
“In terms of being the swing vote, I think the reason was simple: I was concerned with what was best for the town of Ayer,” he said.
Originally a Shirley native, Bresnahan came to Ayer 38 years ago, saying it was the place he and his wife – nee Louise McGuane – found to live.
He termed Ayer a wonderfully diverse place that’s near both their families, which have grown over the years. The couple has four children and five grandchildren, one of whom just ran the Boston Marathon.
In his professional life, Bresnahan still maintains a financial advisory establishment on Main Street, and serves on the board of trustees for North Middlesex Savings Bank.
Though he’s mostly out of the public sector at the moment, Bresnahan did not rule out a future run for another position, say Board of Assessors. At this point, however, the focus is on private life.
“Right now I’m just paying attention to my financial advising business,” he said. “I’m still involved with the Devens disposition project, and otherwise, it’s normal things like family.”