AYER — There are three candidates on the printed ballot facing-off for two available Ayer Board of Selectmen seats. Mark Coulter, Christopher Hillman, and incumbent Gary Luca are the named candidates this Monday, April 23 for the Town Election. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Incumbent Carolyn McCreary is not seeking another term.
Each seat carries a three year term. The candidates were all asked to complete a short biographical questionnaire, and then answer the same questions, choosing what answers to emphasize and in any event not using more than 350 words for all of their answers.
Name: Christopher Robert Hillman, 5 Wagon Road
Marital status/children: married, three children
Occupation: owner, Hillco Heating & Cooling Inc
Education: Nashoba Valley Tech, Fitchburg State
Other civic involvement: volunteer Coach for Ayer recreation basketball for four years.
Name: Mark Coulter, High Street
Marital status/children: Married to Catherine; four children; one grandson
Occupation: retired Ayer police
Education: HS diploma, management certificates: U-Lowell and Babson College: Law enforcement management, general management certificates
Other civic involvement: director of Mass youth police academy for five years.
Name: Gary Luca, 3 Groton School Road
Marital status/children/ grandchildren: Married to the former Pamela Januskiewicz, five children, five grandchildren
Occupation: postmaster, Ayer
Education: two years college
Previously held government positions in Ayer: selectman
Other civic involvement: Various committees as a BOS representative
Q1 — Explain your view of the selectman’s proper role in town government:
COULTER — I feel a selectman’s roll is to represent the residents, represent their best interests, listen to their issues, be fair and objective, be honest, make sure the entire board is transparent at all times, transparency promotes trust, be factual and get all the facts of any issue before making a decision.
HILLMAN — As a policy making board, that makes informed decisions that they believe represent the best interests of the people.
LUCA — Represent the taxpayers and business owners in town, set policies while working with other boards both elected and appointed, participate without an individual own agenda, should hire the most competent individuals who make proper decisions, have best interest of the town in mind through collaboration and unity, be transparent and accountable.
Q2 — What uniquely qualifies you for this post?
COULTER — I am qualified for this position because I have no special interests. I have resided in the area for 54 years. I have seen the changes, the closing of Fort Devens, and the redevelopment of Devens. I have children in the Ayer-Shirley regional school system. I was employed by the town for 15 years.
HILLMAN — Being an owner of a business, I believe I have developed the ability to negotiate, listen, and make informed decisions based on fact not emotions.
LUCA — Nearly six years experience as a selectman, over seven years as a postmaster and reduced my budget yearly, former business owner and current homeowner, complete understanding of the financial aspects of the position, leadership ability that’s necessary to be effective, I ask questions and take responsibility for my actions.
Q3 — What changes, if any, would you wish to implement as a selectman?
COULTER — I would recommend and support a limit of two terms for a selectperson. I would like to see board members downtown more often meeting with business owners and employees on a casual basis to determine how things are going, what may be of help and what ideas business owners may have to increase foot traffic downtown.
HILLMAN — Implement most of government study committee’s recommendations.
LUCA — Update BOS policies and procedures, replace antiquated employee position descriptions, work harder to transform at times a somewhat divisive, grandstanding board, allow more decisions by the town administrator and less by the BOS.
Q4 — What are the top three priorities facing Ayer that are within the selectmen’s purview (in any order)?
COULTER — (1) Push for a decision on Devens: Is it going to become a town or not? (2) working to bring more businesses to Ayer and (3) do all that is possible to prevent tax overrides.
HILLMAN — Although I realize not all of these fall under the direct control of selectman. These are the three top issues in town in my opinion. (1) Recruiting more business to the whole town, not just downtown, (2) getting a new high school project passed and started, and (3) finally getting the new MBTA lot approved and built, that will incorporate more parking for downtown visitors, and businesses.
LUCA — (1) The town’s financial future, (2) build a larger business and residential tax base, and (3) necessary support for the ASRSD.
Q5 — In a single sentence, your views on:
* The Town Government Study Committee recommendations
COULTER — Great ideas but I would not support a three-member board, votes become an issue if one member is absent, thus issues take longer to resolve.
HILLMAN — I agree with most of their recommendations.
LUCA — Although Ayer is a governmental entity, it still needs to be run like a business and many of the recommendations by the TGSC I applaud as a good new beginning.
* The residential and commercial tax rate balance
COULTER — The tax rate is almost a $15 difference between residential/commercial, needs to be looked at.
HILLMAN — Fair and should not be changed.
LUCA — I may be in support of a split tax rate but would rather see less of a gap between the two that will allow for more outside business investments in the town.
* Revitalizing the downtown
COULTER — Search for grant money to continue to improve the downtown area, seek diverse businesses.
HILLMAN — I believe a new parking area will help tremendously.
LUCA — We need to be more proactive in attracting and encouraging an investment downtown through the Economic Development Dept., IDFA and an aggressive approach to improve infrastructure including parking.
* Making Ayer a destination for businesses
COULTER — Work with landlords to get businesses to come to Ayer.
HILLMAN — We need to recruit, and sell the town as a whole not just wait and hope businesses choose Ayer.
LUCA — We have all the services that a business needs with water, sewer, police, fire and rail to entice businesses with an aggressive advertising campaign to let companies know that Ayer is open for business.
* Involvement in the JBOS
COULTER — Until a decision is made with reference to Devens becoming a town, talk is cheap.
HILLMAN — I believe in the idea, but until Mass Development takes its opinion seriously it’s a waste of time.
LUCA — Have been involved since the failure of scenario 2B and believe it should continue with more of a dialogue toward disposition.
* Your opinion on the disposition of Devens
COULTER — no answer provided.
HILLMAN — I hope that state will realize that the initial Reuse Plan is outdated, and come up with a new plan that clearly defines Devens and finally ends all the uncertainty.
LUCA — The two Vicksburg Square failures shows me that disposition of Devens is more important than any development due to the what happens if we have jurisdiction in the future scenario.