AYER -- Jannice Livingston, 48, admits the event that triggered her run for selectman was watching Selectman Frank Maxant rip up a certificate of appreciation given to each selectman by Ayer American Legion Post 139.
Maxant claimed his friend, who was a former neighbor, an honorably-discharged Marine veteran and a Level 3 sex offender, was denied membership in the local post. Livingston's sister, Betty Ann Matozel, is the commander of the local post. The two are Navy veterans, as is Maxant.
Matozel denied ever meeting the man or that the man ever formally applied for membership. Livingston said she watched the selectmen's meeting in shock. "Everyone has something that makes them finally jump. I was like 'What is going on?' I saw the video and said 'What just happened -- and why?'"
"He didn't just insult Post 139. He made it clear that the town of Ayer was somehow to blame," said Livingston. "I said 'What are you talking about? This town wouldn't do that.'"
"I can bring to the table a calmness to help stop the madness," said Livingston. "I bring respect."
Born in Ayer, Livingston's family moved in and out of town with her father's Army deployments to Virginia and New Mexico. Livingston graduated from Ayer High School in 1982 and enlisted in the Navy in 1983.
For more than five years, Livingston performed data processing duties in the Navy. When her original enlistment expired, Livingston tried her hand in the civilian world but "missed the camaraderie."
Livingston entered the Naval Reserves in June 1990 and became an enlistment officer at the South Weymouth Naval Air Station. After a stint at the Quincy Naval Reserve Center, Livingston later was stationed at the naval submarine base in New London, Conn., and tracked service records for those in active duty following the 9/11 attacks.
After eight years of active duty, Livingston remained as a weekend reservist while attending Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn. She graduated in 2000 with an associate degree in marketing and advertising with a certificate in public relations.
Livingston worked as a paginator for the Norwich (Conn.) Bulletin daily newspaper and retired from the Navy in 2005.
Livingston moved into a home on Lincoln Street. She's been an acquisition support and configuration management contractor since 2009 with Jacobs Technology on Hanscom Air Force Base.
She hopes to bring her skill set to the Ayer Board of Selectmen. "I've always liked politics. I find it fascinating," said Livingston.
Maxant is among the four seeking one available seat. Election day is April 30. In addition to Livingston, the other candidates in the race include Mark Coulter and Jane Morriss.
Livingston said frequent inter-board quarreling is a major distraction. "This makes for great TV, but this is real. This isn't a soap opera I'm watching. This has to stop," said Livingston. "I don't remember anything else they discuss at meetings."
"One thing that's become kind of obvious is each of them comes to the meeting with their own focus and that's it. Then something happens and, as human beings, they're reacting and unfortunately it's happening too much," said Livingston. "Unfortunately its becoming embarrassing and they don't want that. So that needs to stop. I think my strong point is I'm good at listening to what each side is saying -- whatever the sides are -- and then sitting down and connecting the dots."
Though Maxant sparked her run, she denies Maxant is the sole problem on the board. "No, you can't blame everything on Frank. Everyone has their own little individual problems that makes it chaotic."
Livingston said it's the people's call as to whether or not the town should seek to regain municipal jurisdiction over Ayer lands within the former Fort Devens Army base. "I'm not trying to sound wishy-washy. I don't have a set agenda. I need to hear what people want."
Regarding Shirley's struggles to cover its share of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District tab, Livingston said Ayer selectmen and the Finance Committee are doing a good job protecting taxpayer interests. "They're trying to back up a little bit, review the situation and see if they can balance it out again without hurting Ayer. We cannot make Ayer pay for everything."
"There's a fine balance because there's children in Shirley who need to be educated, and you want children educated because it benefits all of us. But you cannot just devastate one group. If we can help Shirley without putting us under, I'm all for it."
Livingston supports the idea of a full-time building inspector and a crackdown on "targeted" properties. "If you drive into an area that looks terrible and no one is taking care of things and are behind on taxes, that affects everybody -- financially and their mood."
"I try to talk at a human being level -- human beings want to live, laugh and love. They want to come home, drive through their town and start to de-stress as they drive along Main Street," said Livingston. "They want to be able to go to their home, know that it looks nice, look out their window and see something peaceful; they want to be comfortable and happy. I want to affect the bigger picture."
Livingston said the board's focus should be on quality of life issues. "Doesn't it make you feel good to drive down the street and see something pleasant? The idea is you want to try to grow Ayer but still keep that nice quaintness about it. We've got a good thing going here. We have commuter rail, excellent police and fire and DPW, but there's something that always needs to be done. You have to look at how you develop Ayer in such a way that's beneficial to all but you don t feel lost and coming home to a town you don't recognize."