Long-time Belfast resident, business owner and incumbent mayor, Walter Ash Jr. is looking to serve the city for a fourth term as he prepares to face off against two challengers during November's election.

Ash, owner of Eastside Garage, is no stranger to local government having gotten his start serving on the city's comprehensive plan committee in the '80s. Following that stint, Ash discovered his appetite for local government and soon joined the board of directors for the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad.

When the city eventually sold its interest in the railroad, Ash said he made the decision to make a bid for the Ward 5 councilor seat — a position he held for 12 years — and served as a state legislator for six years.

“You might say I'm kind of seasoned,” Ash said of his experience in government.

With this year marking the end of his third term as the mayor of Belfast, Ash said one of the most important aspects of the position is to stay connected to what is happening in the city. Ash said he makes daily visits to City Hall to meet with various department heads and also speaks with residents to find out what they like that the city is doing, and also what they don't like.

“I think people feel comfortable talking to me,” he said.

When asked what he would like to see the city accomplish over the next few years if elected again, Ash first said he is very pleased with the results of the Harbor Walk Project. He said he feels the project turned out to far exceed his expectations.

Ash then said he wants to see the Rail Trail — a recreational trail that would extend from the edge of Penobscot McCrum's property out to City Point Station — completed. He said he would also like to see more shopping opportunities come to the city, especially now that Belfast has an area along Route 3 specifically zoned for commercial development.

He did note that trying to expand the city's shopping opportunities did not necessarily mean that a big box store would be brought to Belfast; instead the city could attract a number of smaller stores.

Ash stressed, however, that any development that takes place in the city “needs to be done right.”

With more development in mind in the city, Ash spoke briefly about the city's plans to pursue funding to rebuild Front Street. Ash said the street has remained largely unchanged through the years, but the city needs to address the increasing demands on the road from Front Street Shipyard, as well as find a way to create more parking for businesses in the area.

As Ash prepares for the Nov. 5 election to decide who will be mayor in the city, he cautioned that the job requires more work than people may initially realize. As an example, he explained that he has to read through all of the documents that councilors do in order to have a full understanding of what issues the city is dealing with. In addition, he said he makes daily trips to City Hall in order to stay updated on what is happening in Belfast.

“There's more to it than a lot of people think,” he said.

While being the mayor requires dedication and commitment, Ash said he has enjoyed serving the people of Belfast because it gives him a chance to interact with residents on a daily basis and to help people.

“This town has been real good to me,” Ash said. “Why not pay it back?”

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.