Over the next three years, the Portland City Council will be discussing how the city can grow to meet rising demand for housing, jobs and social services while preserving its essential character.

When those talks happen, we want Belinda Ray at the table. That’s why we endorse her as the next District 1 city councilor.

Ray, a writer, teacher and business manager for a small construction company, is also a committed community volunteer who has fought for her neighborhood for the past 11 years.

East Bayside is a microcosm of the city, with public housing, private housing – both rental and owner-occupied – places of worship and sections zoned for commercial and industrial businesses.

No neighborhood in Portland is more complex, and, along with neighboring Bayside, which is also part of District 1, no neighborhood has a more important role in how the city will grow.

Ray founded the East Bayside Neighborhood Association, and built support for the small but important building blocks of a community, like the refurbished playground at Peppermint Park and the basketball court in Kennedy Park. She also has successfully advocated for bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, street trees and other amenities that make a neighborhood more livable.

But Ray is interested in more than the little things. We were impressed with her constructive approach to support commercial development that help fund improvements to our aging infrastructure. Engaging in partnerships with the private sector would get important work done and take some pressure off residential taxpayers.

We also liked her ideas for exploring new ways to gauge public opinion using social media.

Ray emerges from a very strong field of candidates.

Bayside Neighborhood Association member Sean Kerwin, a lawyer and owner of a construction company, is thoughtful, informed and would also be an outstanding councilor.

We give Ray a slight edge because of the depth of her community involvement and the number of years she has devoted to helping Portland be a better place.

The fact that she would bring some diversity to the council, in which only one woman serves alongside eight men, also helped nudge us in her direction.

Kerwin has a lot to offer Portland, and he should run for public office another time. But in this race, Ray gets our vote.