January 20, 2018
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Nurse, 26, upsets longtime Belfast mayor with ‘grandkids older than she is’

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BELFAST, Maine — In an upset victory Tuesday night, Belfast’s incumbent mayor, who has held political offices at the state and local level for more years than his challenger has been alive, has been ousted.

Samantha Paradis, 26, a registered nurse at Waldo County General Hospital and now Belfast’s mayor-elect, took on Walter Ash, a 72-year-old retired mechanic and lifelong Belfast resident who was vying for his fifth term as mayor.

When the votes were tallied, Paradis earned 1,264 votes to Ash’s 959, according to the city’s official election results. She’s expected to take her oath of office during a ceremony Monday.

“I want to foster a culture at city hall that’s welcoming and where people can come in and share their concerns and issues,” Paradis said Tuesday morning.

Belfast’s mayor typically doesn’t vote on issues, unless it’s to break a tie among city councilors. The mayor does serve as a sort of figurehead representative of the city, and is responsible for moderating meetings and facilitating discussions.

Paradis campaigned hard in her effort to unseat Ash, knocking on more than 2,000 doors and sending out mailers promoting her desire to convert all municipal buildings to clean energy sources, ease the city’s rental housing shortage, and bring new jobs to Belfast.

She has said she decided to forgo a bid for a City Council seat as her first foray into politics because she believes she can instigate more change as mayor. She also thanked Ash for his decades of service to the city.

Had Ash won, he would have become the city’s second-longest-serving mayor in the past century. He can’t remember off the top of his head the last time he didn’t hold political office, but knows it was sometime in the 1980s.

“Am I disappointed? Yeah, I am,” Ash said during a phone interview Tuesday while he was picking up campaign signs. “But she ran a race, and she won, and that’s the way it is.”

Ash said he was surprised by the loss. As he and Paradis greeted people outside the polls, he shook hands with many people who said they cast their vote for him. He thought he had an easy lead but was surprised to learn how the votes came down. He said he was surprised that Belfast voters wanted someone with no past experience to take over the mayor’s seat.

“I can’t say nothing bad about her,” Ash said. “I got grandkids older than she is.”

Ash said he doesn’t plan on trying to get back into politics.

“I’m done,” he said. “I’m going to resign from a few committees I’m on. I’ve paid my dues and it’s time for other people to step up, I guess.”

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

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