Belfast Mayor Samantha Paradis will not run for re-election.
The 28-year-old announced her decision Tuesday night at the regular City Council meeting. It comes several months before the end of a two-year term that has been marked so far by a seeming lurch into identity politics and intercouncil divisiveness.
Paradis, an Aroostook County native who moved to Belfast to work as a nurse at Waldo County General Hospital, became the city’s youngest, second female and first queer mayor in 2017.
Although she told the BDN during a break in the meeting that she had no comment about her decision not to run again, she did say a few words about her experience as mayor during council communications.
“I am very happy to have had this opportunity to serve the city of Belfast,” she said, calling being mayor “one of the honors” of her professional life. “I am looking forward to finishing out my term.”
The announcement came after Councilor Eric Sanders said that he is running to be mayor during the next election.
Councilor Mike Hurley also announced that he would be running for office again, though not to be mayor, and that he hopes that someone who opposes the proposed land-based salmon farm will run against him for the council seat. Hurley has been a staunch proponent of the fish farm, which he said will bring needed property tax dollars to the city as well as new jobs. Some others in the area have been vocal opponents to the fish farm since it was announced as a possibility a year and a half ago.
“I love elections. They really do matter,” Hurley said.
The council addressed a couple of other hot-topic issues during the meeting, but did not seem to want to dive back into old conflicts Tuesday. The agenda showed that councilors were scheduled to have further discussion with developer Paul Naron about his Front Street waterfront properties. City officials have said that they want a permanent easement over the Harbor Walk trail, which runs through those properties, but Naron has balked at this. At least one prior executive session with Naron and city officials ended sourly, with voices raised so loudly behind closed doors they were described as a “semi-public shouting match” in the Republican Journal.
On Tuesday, Naron did not appear before the council but instead was represented by attorney Joe Baiungo, who has offered an alternative deal to the city: that instead of a permanent easement across the property, Naron’s permits to do business will be tied to a license to allow the public continued access to the Harbor Walk.
“Mr. Naron wants to continue to be a good public steward of that property and wants to allow public access along the water,” Baiungo wrote in a June 3 letter to city officials.
No decisions were made Tuesday, but councilors seemed willing to hear him out and to continue the conversation. Some even expressed relief that the discussion remained relaxed and productive, as opposed to the earlier talks.
“I much prefer this to the other opportunities we’ve had to discuss it,” Sanders said. “This style of talking about potential deals is a lot more pleasant than the last times.”