Three recently re-elected Belfast city officials took their respective oaths of office at City Hall, Monday, Nov. 14, in a ceremony that was notably absent of pomp.

Mayor Walter Ash, who won the only contested city race over challenger Jim O’Connor, was reaffirmed for a third term, and city councilors Eric Sanders and Mike Hurley were each approved for second terms.

Ash thanked his supporters, and said he wondered about those who didn’t vote for him. “I’ll have to take a look at those 800 votes I didn’t get and see what I can do for those people,” he said.

Sanders declined to make a speech and Hurley made a joke about his race against Mickey Mouse — a reference to the handful of write-in votes cast against him in the uncontested Ward 4 race — but trailed off without finishing the comment.

Apart from several city officials, there was no audience for the event. The officials appeared, for the most part, to have come to the ceremony in their work clothes. A tray of assorted cookies and pitcher of apple cider sat at one end of the horseshoe of desks used for Council and Planning Board meetings. The conversation was informal.

City Clerk Denise Beckett asked Ash and company if they wanted to do a processional walk into the Council Chambers. No one did. The officials took their oaths and the event ended as uneventfully as it began, the stage set for another two years of city government.

It wasn’t always this way. If Beckett’s suggestion of a processional went under the radar, Hurley’s comment that “there used to be bagpipes” gave a surreal glimpse into how much things have changed.

Prior to sitting on the City Council, Hurley served three terms as Belfast mayor. When he was sworn in for the first time in 2000, there was indeed a bagpiper at the event, he said, speaking on Tuesday morning.

The ceremony, in which each elected official was led into the Council Chambers before being sworn in, took place before a packed house of members of the public, he said, and many took the occasion to say something publicly about the state of the city, pay homage to the departing mayor, or offer vision of the future.

But it was also a different time, he said. Belfast had had the same mayor for 14 years in Page Worth. The 2000 election also ushered in two new city councilors. There were three newspapers in Belfast at the time, which Hurley said drove a lot of the interest in civic affairs.

“Elections had more potential to be cataclysmic,” he said. “Like, ‘Throw the bums out!'”

In Hurley’s recollection, there was no long-standing tradition that dissolved. Rather, that particular election seemed to mean something about the future of the city. More people were paying attention, and the swearing-in ceremony was part of that.

This time around, he said, everyone knows who the players are. Combine that with the recent boom in new businesses and ambitious city endeavors like the Harbor Walk and rail trail, and the lack of public participation seems understandable, he said.

“There’s nobody occupying Post Office Square because they think things are going great,” he said. “People do that when they’re not happy.”

Hurley recalled traveling to Northern Ireland in 2001 to meet another mayor of Belfast and waiting in a sitting room while the Irish official put on his ceremonial garb, including the 14 pound, gold “chain of office,” a conspicuously imperial ornament worn by the city’s lord mayors.

“If we get a gold necklace, I might run for mayor again,” Hurley said.