The next Augusta election became much less competitive at the filing deadline. A bombshell development, almost unnoticed, found incumbent at-large Councilor Dale McCormick choosing not to file nomination papers for re-election.

The longtime Democrat politician has apparently had enough.

There have been several dustups between McCormick and Mayor David Rollins regarding conduct of council meetings, as well as differences of opinion on various issues. Her decision not to seek re-election was not totally unexpected. She had told friends of disappointment while serving on the council and of the emotional stress her council term has caused her.

McCormick served her constituency proudly and well as a state representative, state senator, and finally city councilor. She is recognized as one of the state’s earliest and most outspoken leaders, and longtime relentless champion, for LGBT rights.

The departure of progressive-liberal McCormick along with Pat Paradis and Cecil Munson, term-limited out at the end of this year, will mark the end of another era. The departure of these three solid Democrat public servants swings the pendulum back significantly in Augusta politics.

The new council will undoubtedly feature return of veteran councilor Mark O’Brien — husband of Julie, former Republican legislator and executive director of the party — and former Republican state legislator Corey Wilson, who after becoming a federal employee at Togus VA is prohibited (by the Hatch act) from seeking state or federal office. The third new councilor is likely to be Harold “Junior” Elliott in Ward 3.

O’Brien, Wilson and Elliott will decisively change the philosophical composition of the Augusta city council and be helpful to Mayor Rollins in his quest to lead the city.

This threesome will lend balance and some moderate conservatism to the council. Populist at-large Councilor Jeff Bilodeau and new Councilor Marci Alexander do not appear to have partisan political agendas. So if my math is correct, the next council comes much closer to achieving the city charter’s goal of non-partisan elections instead of domination by members of a single political party.

SCHOOL BOARD

On the school board side of municipal politics, Chairwoman Kim Martin is heaving a sigh of relief. Newcomers, likely to support her role and that of Superintendent Jim Anastasio, will run without opponents who criticized the school board but did not file papers at deadline. Staci Fortunato will represent Ward 1 and Katie McCormick Ward 4.

At-large member Ed Hastings, who has frequently made life unpleasant for Martin, will have a challenge from long-shot newcomer Holly Killdi. If the underdog, who supports the chairwoman and superintendent, should prevail, things could become much more productive for the school board.

Augusta’s schools should always be open to scrutiny, but the current team of administrators — superintendent, principals and dedicated teachers — are worthy of solid community support.

Martin is committed to her job and is an even-handed moderator at meetings. Martin and Anastasio are sometimes targets of minority dissension on the board. A more cooperative approach is needed for positive results.

A note to the superintendent: be empathetic to the needs and role of the Capital Area Technical Center. CATC is a valuable jewel in the Augusta school system and serves “trades” students throughout the region. It is worthy of your attention and strong support.

UTILITIES BOARD

Behind the scenes, city administrators have been lobbying for appointment of outgoing Councilor Pat Paradis to the Greater Augusta Utilities Board of Trustees, after the election.

This would be a power play attempting eventual control of the board, hoping to strip away GAUD autonomy. Several years ago city manager Bill Bridgeo served as a member of the utilities board, but, under pressure, eventually stepped down. Some in the administration would be happy to see GAUD manager Brian Tarbuck replaced, because of what one city official once suggested to me was “lack of co-operation with the city.”

Actually, the utility district manager is not afraid to fight for what he thinks is fair and reasonable treatment of the district and its ratepayers by the city when it comes to utilities construction demands (many caused by Summit Gas problems).

In another issue, there is an unpublicized battle between the city and the GAUD board as to who is going to pay for significant new costs coming from new mandates of the federal “clean water” act relating to containment of storm water runoff.

Four GAUD trustees are gone because of two term expirations (including mine) and two resignations. Mayor Rollins’ next appointments will determine the fate of the utilities district.

Don Roberts is a veteran broadcaster, writer and political consultant. He has served Augusta as a city councilor at-large, charter commission vice chairman and utilities district treasurer.

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