For John Arrison, who, during his 16 years in Belfast, has served on the city’s Harbor Committee, worked for St. Margaret’s Church, helped families research genealogy at the Penobscot Marine Museum, volunteered at a Belfast food pantry and the Game Loft after school program, co-founded the community rowing program Come Boating! and recently signed on to the board of Habitat for Humanity, his decision to seek the Ward 5 City Council was just another way to give to the community.

“It comes down to the word ‘service,'” he said. “I’ve been almost constantly doing work to benefit the community of Belfast since I’ve been here.”

Originally from Connecticut, Arrison moved to Belfast 16 years ago. His family had vacationed in Maine for generations and he recalled watching black-and-white film footage of his grandparents climbing Mount Katahdin. Over the years, Arrison, whose education is in engineering and history, worked for a number of maritime museums, most recently at the Penobscot Marine Museum, and he is currently pursuing ordination as an Episcopal deacon.

Considering the job of a city councilor, he offered a list of what he believes are the primary responsibilities of the office, starting with the nuts-and-bolts, day-to-day business of running the city, which he said required a respectful working relationship among city staff and officials.

Arrison said he wanted to be “fiscally responsible and fiscally respectful,” by which he means there is a connection between funding positions and departments and morale and productivity.

“So many people look only at the bottom line and don’t recognize the work and energy not only of city staff, but also a great population of volunteers on city committees and many other civic, environmental, development, religious and community organizations.”

On another level, Council members need to be able to analyze proposals and reports and understand the short- and long-term effects on residents, he said. “And a lot of them are not money-related,” he said. “But the non-money returns are often more valuable. They’re both very valuable, but I’m not one who defines the work of the councilor purely by the bottom line.”

When faced with tough problems, Arrison said, councilors need to be able to communicate well with each other, ideally working toward consensus, though he conceded that might not always be possible, especially in the formal setting of Council meetings.

Elaborating, Arrison said it’s possible for people to reach a compromise agreement without either party necessarily being behind it.

“Unfortunately, that leads to a loss of energy and excitement. Whereas, if you can come to a true consensus, where everybody is in it, then it does present a good face to the overall community of goodwill, of hard work and trying to do the best for the community.”

Having served on several vestries — the board responsible for the lay matters of the church — Arrison noted that consensus was typically the standard operating procedure, and the outcomes seemed to strengthen the organization.

“They were very difficult meetings, but oftentimes resulted in a greater team spirit and long-term joy,” he said.

After a moment, he added, “I like the word ‘joy.'”

The Ward 5 race is unique this year in that the winner will be the first non-Belfast native to hold the position in decades, if not ever, and while Arrison said his responsibility as a councilor elected at large would be to the whole city, he said he had a “double responsibility” to be sensitive to the needs, interests and opportunities of Ward 5 residents.

Asked why, Arrison said he believed the mean income of East Side residents was probably less than in other wards. “But overall, I’d say that there are a lot of similarities in the spectrum of community in Ward 5 as there is in the rest of the city.”

On use of the city’s surplus for investments like the City Council’s recent purchases of a piece of land adjoining Belfast Common and a portion of the Belfast & Moosehead Lake railroad corridor, Arrison said he didn’t want to generalize, but that in each case he would look at studies and talk to citizens before making a decision.

In some situations, he said, it might be appropriate to have a referendum. If there were a project he favored, Arrison said he would feel a strong obligation to educate the public about the costs and benefits of the expenditure.

Affordable housing is another major issue for the Ward 5 candidate, and a parallel issue, he said, is job creation. “Getting more jobs here is not just going out and finding the companies that will come to Belfast. It is building the infrastructure of the city … that is supportive of people starting their own businesses in Belfast,” he said. This means having a good physical infrastructure in the city, but also keeping young people here after college, he said.

Job growth also plays into the long-term future of the waterfront, Arrison said. Looking at the upcoming downtown and waterfront master plan, he said he supported a variety of uses, but stressed that he didn’t want to see successful small businesses priced out of the downtown. He complimented the work of boatbuilders French & Webb, but cautioned of a boat-building business in another part of Maine that was forced to move away from the waterfront because of increased property taxes.

“It is sad to see the wonderful facilities like Moss and Harborside Graphics, I hate seeing them empty.”

Arrison voiced appreciation for councilors who have championed certain causes during their time in office and beyond. He mentioned former Councilor Tammy Lacher-Scully’s work around the footbridge, the various booster activities of Mike Hurley and the work of James Roberts Sr. on preserving the city’s rangeways.

For Arrison, these efforts, though sometimes contentious, have shown a spirit of optimism toward the city that he shares.

Recently he was at a Portland Sea Dogs baseball game and realized that the stadium of the minor league Red Sox affiliate team held just over 7,000 people.

“I thought, this is great,” he said. “You can have the population of Belfast in one place having a good time.”