With days remaining before the filing deadline for Belfast municipal and school board elections, the Ward 2 City Council seat is the sole contested race, with three candidates. Wards 1 and 5 have attracted one candidate each, and four candidates have shown an interest in the five open seats on the Regional School Unit 20 board of directors. The city is also seeking Election Day workers.

Ward 2

Roger Lee, who currently holds the Ward 2 Council seat, is seeking re-election. Challenging Lee are Rita Horsey and Matthew McDonald. All three candidates have returned their nomination papers.

Rita Horsey said she is running for the Council seat because she wants to represent the people of Belfast. “A lot of people don’t understand the importance of local government. But the Council touches the life of all the people in Belfast,” she said.

Horsey said she has concerns about how city tax money is spent, and offered as examples two proposed city expenditures, the purchase of the Crosby School for a performing arts center and the Coastal Walkway, a recreational path that would run between the footbridge and Steamboat Landing.

She also said she wants to know if the Council’s decision to hire an economic development director has been worth the expense of the new position.

Matthew McDonald said he would bring a “common sense” approach and fiscal responsibility to the City Council if elected to the Ward 2 seat.

“I can relate to the average guy in Belfast … I’m not that guy from Massachusetts. I’m not from out of state trying to bring out-of-state views in,” said McDonald, who is originally from Millinocket. “I’m a Mainer, just trying to help the average Mainer in Belfast.”

McDonald said he would also work to promote economic growth, using a strategy that could include tax breaks for businesses that would bring jobs to the community.

“I understand that the majority of people don’t want a Wal-Mart in Belfast, and that’s fine. So what you do is you work with the local small-business owners and help them to create jobs,” he said.

Incumbent Ward 2 Councilor Roger Lee is seeking a third term. Asked why, he said:

“I think I’ve found that I can contribute, that I’ve made a difference. I think I bring a thoughtful, practical, willing-to-listen approach to the City Council.”

“Some people have a kind of an ideology and stubbornness that I don’t think I have,” he said. “I’ve changed my mind on issues. Important issues.” He offered the big-box compromise that allowed for a large retail store on one designated Route 3 parcel as an example.

Lee said he had been instrumental in keeping the city’s budget in check. He pointed to the drop in the mill rate over the past five years, from 19.3 to 18.1. “I don’t think that’s a coincidence in any way,” he said. “I really, honestly believe if I hadn’t been there it would have gone up.”

Without making radical cuts that he would disagree with, like reducing the police force, Lee said it would be difficult to cut the city budget much more than has been done during his tenure.

“I don’t think you can say that there’s some kind of excessive spending going on,” he said.

Wards 1 and 5

Ward 1 Councilor Marina Delune has taken out papers for a re-election bid, but as of Aug. 27 at 3:30 p.m. had not returned them. No other candidates have emerged in Ward 1.

Asked about her decision to seek a second term, Delune said, “I kind of feel like I’m just hitting my stride. I know where I can be useful, and I understand the process.”

Delune said one of her conditions for seeking office the first time was that she run unopposed, which she did in 2008. This time, she said, she feels more confident and wouldn’t be opposed to having competition.

In Ward 5, Nancy Hamilton has returned nomination papers for the position that will be vacated by Lewis Baker, who is making a bid for the Maine House of Representatives District 43 seat. As of Friday afternoon, no other Ward 5 candidates had taken out papers.

Hamilton said she was waiting for someone else to run, but it didn’t happen. “I decided it was something someone needed to do,” she said.

The Ward 5 candidate said her principal concerns are jobs and taxes, which she sees as “two sides of the same coin.” She expressed concern about the lack of job opportunities in the community and said she wants to ensure that the taxes residents pay are used wisely.

“We’re blessed with a surplus — that’s rare in this economy,” she said. “But because we have a surplus, there’s an awful lot of people who feel that it needs to be spent.”

Hamilton gave the proposed civic center as an example of what she believes to be an unwise use of tax money.

School board and election officials

The field of potential school board candidates includes current board members Margaret Andrews, Stephen Kirkpatrick and Matthew Small. Newcomer Walter Fitzjurls has also taken out nomination papers for the RSU 20 board. As of Aug. 27 at 3:30 p.m., none of the school board candidates had returned their papers.

Other open positions include Election Day workers: wardens and ward clerks. According to Interim City Clerk Robin Reynolds, three people have taken out papers for the 10 open positions. Reynolds said the small turnout was typical.

“We end up either appointing them or they get in on a write-in,” she said. “We really need more election workers. … A lot of our workers are older. They’ve been doing it for a long time and they’re either burnt out or tired of it.”

Nomination papers for prospective city councilors, RSU 20 board members and election wardens and ward clerks must be returned to City Hall by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31. At that time a drawing will be held to determine placement on the ballot.

VillageSoup will publish in-depth candidate profiles in the months leading up to the election.