AYER -- Selectman Christopher Hillman is not afraid to be the bad guy.

Rounding up his first term -- shortened after the town voted to reduce the board to three members -- Hillman has headed a new property-enforcement initiative with a philosophy of addressing issues immediately. And his ideas don't stop there.

"I've only had two years in my three-year term, so I feel like there's a lot more I want to accomplish for the town," he said.

The property initiative resulted in two town lawsuits against residents Mark Velardi and Hugh Ernisse.

Hillman argued that the board is not overstepping its bounds on the targeted properties so far, explaining that litigation is the last straw.

"It's not like we're just picking on people," he said.

"These properties that are in litigation now have been on the forefront for 10 years probably, if not longer."

But Hillman insisted that the board needs to be consistent in targeting the properties.

"We shouldn't be going all out on two properties and then letting other ones kind of slide by because they're a farm or because they're nice people or if they know somebody," he said. "It should be consistent."

Early in his term, Hillman led the movement to clean up the rotary with the support of state Sen. Jamie Eldridge. After the rotary was cleaned out, he organized a town tree lighting last Christmas.

As the owner of a heating and air conditioning company, Hillman said he sometimes wishes that the town were run more like a business.


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He gets frustrated with how long things take to progress, arguing that the board tends not to follow through with matters. In this sense, he said, he does sympathize with the property owners caught up in the enforcement initiative that the town never followed up with.

"Following up on things and getting things done is a key for me," he said. "I definitely get frustrated with the minutiae of how things take so long to progress. It drives me crazy."

Hillman has typically brought up further questions or issues at selectmen meetings this year, from traffic on Sandy Pond Road to the search for a full-time building inspector.

He is on the working group for proposed curbside trash pickup, which had a public input meeting in March in which some residents defended the town's transfer station. Hillman stresses that the group is only looking into the possibility for financial purposes.

"If it is significant cost-savings then it should be something that should be implemented," he said. "If it is not, or if it's right there with what works, then we keep what we have and fix up that facility."

Hillman identifies economic development as one of Ayer's future issues. He said sustaining the school budget to attract more children is also important.

The towns can fight over the school budget all they want, he said, but the education of the kids cannot suffer.

"Is it fair to ask the people from Ayer every year to give more money?" he said. "I don't think that's going to fly long-term, so obviously we have to sit down and figure out what is in the best interests of the children."

Hillman was one of two selectmen who did not sign the letter of support for the town's medical marijuana dispensary. He said he was against it, not specifically for security reasons, but for the stigma it would bring to town.

But he said owner John Hillier will do a good job with the dispensary slated for Central Avenue.

"He's a very well respected businessman in the area too, which makes it better, I think, than having people from out of town," he said. "He's done a lot for the community also, so I would assume that that would continue."

Although Hillman had a noticeable outburst with former Selectman Jim Fay in November, he said he has a good relationship with the rest of the board.

The controversial November meeting resulted in Selectman Pauline Conley's removal as chair. When Hillman voted against the removal, Fay called him a back-stabber.

"You want to go toe-to-toe, Mr. Fay, we can go all day long," Hillman shouted at the meeting, recorded on the Ayer Public Access Channel. 

"You told me yesterday, last night, that you wanted her gone, are you kidding me?" Fay countered.

Hillman said that although there were some things he did not agree with, he did not think it warranted removing Conley from the chair.

"I felt it was way too accusatory," he said of the meeting. "It started out with 'you, you, you' and that never ends up well at that table."

Hillman said he told Fay earlier to present the issue in a matter-of-fact, calm demeanor and let Conley explain her side of the story.

"When I voted for it, I said 'I know there's something that was done wrong here, but I don't think it's going to do any good removing her as chair,'" he said.

On the town's ongoing issue between Treasurer Stephanie Gintner and Assistant Treasurer Melisa Doig, Hillman said there should be a reorganization of Town Hall.

Hillman supports the idea of a new human resources/payroll benefits position instead of an assistant treasurer. He said the treasurer should also be an appointed position, noting that he's not trying to "take a shot" at the current treasurer.

"I like both women a lot, I think they're very nice people," he said. "I think the board did the right thing in putting Melisa under the board's control to diffuse the situation, much like any human resources director would do."

Doig has given her resignation to accept a job in Groton.

Hillman depicts himself as an honest person who probably speaks his mind to a fault sometimes.

"I believe what I believe, but I'm open-minded in terms of I can disagree with you and respectfully do it," he said.

In the end, for Hillman, it's all about the town.

"I'm not afraid to ask the tough questions or be the bad guy, and I think I bring a lot of energy," he said. "I like to bring new ideas to the table."