Belfast council: Two leaving, two running, but who’s the third?

Posted Aug. 21, 2014, at 4:23 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Belfast is looking for a few good candidates for public office.

On Election Day, residents will vote to fill three seats on Belfast City Council. But with only one week before the deadline to return nomination papers, Belfast remains one candidate short.

“I hope somebody steps forward,” Mayor Walter Ash said Thursday, adding he’d welcome the chance to talk with prospective candidates. “It’s a big job. … You’ve got to be willing to listen and to go into everything with an open mind. You’ve got to leave your personal opinions at home.”

The council, which governs the city and directs City Manager Joe Slocum, will look different next year. Incumbents Roger Lee and Nancy Hamilton are not running again. Mary Mortier, who is completing her first two-year term, has taken out papers to run again for Ward 1.

Neal Harkness, the long-time chairman of the Waldo County Democratic Committee, is running for Ward 2, the seat held by Lee. Ward 5, located east of the Passagassawakeag River and represented by Hamilton, remains without a candidate. Councilors Michael Hurley, of Ward 4, and Eric Sanders, of Ward 3, will not face re-election until next year.

“It’s a fair bit of work to be an elected council member in the city of Belfast,” Slocum said. “I also see that in a positive way. These people make real contributions. They come together and steer the community. I think every councilor has found it a rewarding experience.”

Lee, who has served for eight years on council, said he’s proud of the decisions made and projects that have moved forward during his tenure, including the Belfast Harbor Walk, the planned rail trail along the river and what he termed the “Wal-Mart Compromise.”

That decision, made after years of often acrimonious debate, created zoning to allow one general merchandise big-box store in one parcel of land along Route 3.

“The town was divided, although it seems hard now to believe,” Lee said. “I’m proud of that. It was a good introduction to the realities of the city.”

He said he has strived to be careful with spending and said the tax rate for the city budget dropped for three years.

He said he decided not to run for personal reasons.

“I just think it takes too much out of your life,” Lee said. “There comes a time when you have to say no.”

Hamilton said Thursday she will not run again because she has aging relatives and other responsibilities.

“It’s been great, but I have other things that are more pressing,” she said.

Mortier said one reason she’s running again is because she has the time to review information, research issues and attend meetings.

“It’s a huge, time-consuming job these days,” she said.

Harkness sounded excited about the chance to add his voice to the council and the city.

“I love this town,” he said. “I just feel like this is such a wonderful place, and one of the reasons why is we just keep looking forward.”

The deadline to return nomination papers at City Hall is 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29.

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