Opinion

Nahant’s million-dollar man

Don’t look over your shoulder, Steve Austin, Nahant’s Austin Antrim could be gaining on you.

Antrim is no $6 million man, but Nahant’s Board of Selectmen credits the town senior firefighter with grant writing skills that helped procure more than $2.5 million for the Fire Department.

In fact, to hear Board of Selectmen Chairman Enzo Barile, Vice Chairman Chesley Taylor and Secretary Richard Lombard tell it, Antrim has practically outfitted a fire station with his combination of determination and attention to detail.

The trio praised Antrim for “single-handed” efforts to successfully secure money to buy a new ladder truck for the department and land another grant to pay for another truck. He has written grants to buy new fire hoses and other equipment to keep town firefighters safe.

A town resident and the son of lifelong town residents, Antrim is exceptional but by no means an exception when it comes to people who make small town government work. Social media allows small town public officials to familiarize themselves with the same grant resources and other assistance available at the state and federal levels for big city municipal officials.

But big cities employ teams, even armies, of grant writers specializing in chasing down grant money to pay for a wide range of services. In small communities, the money flows in only when someone like Antrim shows the initiative and puts in the extra hours required to write grants and pursue them through the review process.

There are public employees throughout municipalities, counties, states and the federal government who work hard to find innovations that benefit people. With students flocking back to classrooms, there are a legion of teachers who went the extra mile to make sure learning begins by putting smiles on young faces.

These same teachers will work through the school year to expand learning beyond the textbook and Smartboard to include field trips, class guest speakers and fun detours from the curriculum designed to ignite a flame in young minds.

How many police officers or, for that matter, teachers juggle the roles of social worker, counselor, even surrogate parent in addition to the mantle of law enforcer and educator? There are plenty of stories of cops steering addicts to safe places where they can get help and teachers connecting troubled teenagers with someone who can really listen to them.

Antrim puts out fires and rushes to medical calls in the town he loves. But his call to duty doesn’t end when his shift is over. He learned the intricate ins and outs of the grant application process and wasn’t afraid to make the case for a small town to apply for hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant writing.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s office has done its part to help out Nahant on Fire Department grants but Antrim, in the words of the selectmen, “is always working for the better of his department and his town.”

Thankfully, Massachusetts cities and towns are dotted with Austin Antrims inside police and fire departments, classrooms, and public works departments. For every public employee held up to ridicule, there are many more like Austin Antrim who consider going the extra mile to be part of their job description.

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