Ayers joins Greenfield Board of Health, nominated as chairman

GLEN AYERS

GLEN AYERS

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 02-16-2024 3:28 PM

GREENFIELD — With the recent swearing in of Glen Ayers, the Board of Health is back to its full three-member capacity, as its newest face looks to help “put the public back in public health.”

Ayers, 66, was appointed to the board in January and officially joined on Feb. 8 when he was sworn in at City Hall. A longtime public servant with decades of experience in permitting, regulation and other facets of public health, as well as more than a decade as a regional health agent with the Franklin Regional Council of Governments, Ayers said he wanted to join the board to offer his help and expertise.

At his first meeting Thursday night, fellow board members Dr. John Romano and Carrie Mimitz nominated Ayers as the board chairman.

While retired, Ayers still maintains his registered sanitarian license and he works as a subject matter expert with the Massachusetts Health Officers Association, where he does statewide consulting work.

“For public health, we have this kind of baseline [where] if we can maintain these minimum standards, we should be able to maintain a healthy society. That’s the goal for this board,” Ayers said, adding that his background has given him an understanding of the wide variety of processes and regulations the board, and city, must abide by. “I think I bring that to the board and I think that will make a difference.”

One of his top priorities is to help the city find a full-time health director, as the city has not had one since October, when Health Director Jennifer Hoffman resigned from the role, citing the “emotional toll” of constant scrutiny, harassment and verbal abuse from the public.

“I’m interested in trying to rebuild the Health Department for a city of 17,000-plus people. Our residents deserve to have a professional and well-functioning Health Department,” Ayers said, emphasizing that those working in the department right now are doing good work. “It’s a need for this community, you can look around and see.”

In the role, he said he wants to ensure the Health Department can do its work on “evidence-based” practices, rather than “political-based practice.”

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“Public health is kind of a unique animal. It’s one of those things that is very important and shouldn’t be subject to manipulation,” he said. “We now have a mayor who has really been saying the same things and I feel I won’t have any difficulty working with this new administration.”

Beyond his regional health agent experience, Ayers has also helped play a prominent role in the ongoing Lunt Silversmith environmental cleanup saga. He initiated the petition launching the process to designate the property as a Public Involvement Plan (PIP) site, and subsequently an audit of the site cleanup process.

He said Mayor Ginny Desorgher, who put his name forward for appointment, brought her concerns to him when she was a city councilor and he soon got involved.

“There is a significant role for the board to play in this kind of situation where there’s a contaminated site that is possibly impacting neighborhoods and I felt the Board of Health was not doing anything about that,” Ayers said, adding that the PIP group has started to work in close collaboration with the city.

That type of collaboration, Ayers added, is something he’d like to see in many aspects of public health.

“I really hope there is going to be a lot more public involvement not just with Lunt, but with other issues in town, and I really hope we get a good health director that has the same approach,” he said. “I’m very interested in putting the public back in public health.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.