Portland City Councilor Belinda Ray announced Thursday that she is a candidate for mayor.

Ray told an energetic crowd of more than 50 people at Oxbow Blending & Bottling that she will bring leadership, integrity, commitment, authenticity and accountability to the mayor’s office.

“The role of mayor to date has not reached its full potential,” said Ray. “When the mayor can open up those relationships, the mayor can do good work. Portland deserves a working mayor. And I will be that working mayor.”

Ray noted the unique nature of the mayor position, which has no executive power, despite being a full-time job. She said the mayor’s power and influence comes by working well with both the city manager, who runs the daily operations; and the City Council, which enacts policies; and Portland’s diverse community.

Ray, who is 48 and represents the city’s East End, is the second candidate to formally enter the race that will be decided in November. West End Councilor Spencer Thibodeau, a 30-year-old real estate attorney, was the first candidate to announce back on Jan. 9.

“I welcome my friend and colleague Councilor Belinda Ray to the race and look forward to a campaign focused on the issues and how we can move Portland forward,” Thibodeau said.

Incumbent Mayor Ethan Strimling, 51, has already raised over $40,000 toward a re-election bid and has filled out at least one candidate questionnaire but says he will not officially announce his intentions until Spring.

Strimling responded with a statement saying his first-term achievements, including property tax relief for seniors and passage of a bond to fix four elementary schools, make him a better choice for a progressive leader. “Although I have respect for Councilor Ray’s work ethic, unfortunately, she has been on the wrong side of votes for funding our schools, easing our housing crisis, protecting our environment and caring for our homeless.”

Ray’s remarks were focused on the apparent growing pains for Portland’s elected mayor position. The first person to hold that position, Michael Brennan, was elected in 2011 and developed a strained relationship with the council. He was defeated four years later by Strimling, whose relationships with the council and the city manager have become strained.

Ray has found herself in the middle of many controversial issue in recent years – from the closure of the HIV Positive Health Clinic on India Street, to the $64 million school bond, to development related issues that prompted development and demolition moratoriums on Munjoy Hill and the working waterfront.

Keith Lane, a Munjoy Hill resident and commercial fisherman, said Ray was one of the first councilors to publicly back fishermen who were concerned about development pressures. “Because she backed us, I have no problem backing her,” Lane said.

As head of the council’s Health and Human Services Committee, Ray is currently leading the city’s efforts to find suitable locations for a 150-bed city-run homeless shelter and three or more smaller facilities that would be operated by nonprofits. Her committee is also poised to forward an ordinance to the full council that would require Portland businesses to offer paid sick time to employees. That ordinance was drafted by the Southern Maine Workers Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby and was brought to the council by Strimling.

Ray was just elected to her second term as District 1 councilor, representing the eastern half of the peninsula and the islands. She’s a freelancer writer and accounts and administration manager for O’Brien Wood & Iron.

City Councilor Jill Duson, who attended the campaign launch, said she was supporting Ray.

Ray said she her parents instilled a desire for public service, which led to her helping to found the East Bayside Neighborhood Association. She now serves as president of Metro board of directors and vice president of the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

“I’ve enjoyed all of this work, but to date it’s been part time,” Ray said. “I’m ready to go full time.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 791-6346 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: randybillings

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