Following the close of the nomination period for mayor and City Council seats, Wednesday, Aug. 31, only the position of mayor will be contested on the municipal ballot in November with two-term incumbent Walter Ash seeking a third term against local businessman Jim O’Connor.

Incumbents in City Council Wards 3 and 4, Eric Sanders and Mike Hurley, each submitted papers for re-election but were alone in their respective wards.

Ash, who served on the City Council for 12 years, and in the State Legislature for six, was first elected as mayor of Belfast in 2007, beating political newcomer Michael Shell by a narrow margin.

The East Side Garage owner and one-time president of the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad won a second term in 2009 when he ran uncontested.

Asked why he is seeking a third term, Ash didn’t hesitate. “Why wouldn’t I?” he said. “Things are running good in Belfast, aren’t they?”

It wasn’t always this way, according to Ash. He said that when he was first elected as mayor, the City Council was more volatile but has been running smoothly as of late.

Ash noted that several major new businesses have come to Belfast on his watch, including athenahealth and Front Street Shipyard, and the city has seen a boom in small businesses.

In terms of what government has contributed, Ash was quick to note that these positive changes have not come about because of one person or the City Council but by the work of the entire political body.

“I put in a lot of sleepless nights getting to where we are today,” he said, “While things are running good, I’d like to stay on a bit longer.”

O’Connor — who served six years on the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors, was one of the founders of the annual Celtic Celebration, and is co-owner of the local business Interiors by Janis Stone — will challenge Ash for the mayor’s seat in November.

[Editor’s note: This version corrects a previous version of the story, which indicated that O’Connor was still a member of the Chamber’s board of directors.]

It will be O’Connor’s first time running for political office in Belfast, though he said he previously served on several town committees in another municipality, and has served on boards of a number of different organizations over the years.

Asked why he was running for mayor, O’Connor cited his business experience. He previously ran a funeral home, and said he has been self-employed for all but four years since the age of 17. He also expressed a strong interest in community service.

“I’d just like to offer an alternative to voters,” he said. “I think it’s an exciting time in Belfast with all the things going on, and being an advocate for business in the town, I have a keen interest in the position.”

On having some competition in this election, Ash said his only regret was that the two Council seats weren’t also contested, adding that he believes councilors Sanders and Hurley are “doing a good job,” but some competition is always healthy.

“I’d hate to be the only garage in town,” Ash said. “Competition keeps you honest. I like it.”

In other local races, Alan Wood has returned nomination papers to fill one of two vacancies on the Regional School Unit 20 board of directors. There are currently two vacancies on the school board for the nine-town district, both representing Belfast.

Wood, who served on the pre-consolidation SAD 34 board, asked the City Council to be appointed to the board in March, but was denied following comments from Sanders, who served previously on the school board with Wood.

The city subsequently appointed Dorothy Odell and Dean Anderson, but later lost two representatives when board members Peggy Andrews and Stephen Kirkpatrick resigned.