Portland City Councilor Belinda Ray announced Monday that she will not seek re-election to a third term in November.

Portland City Councilor Belinda Ray, during her run for mayor in 2019. Press Herald file photo

Ray told colleagues at Monday night’s council meeting that she plans to join the Greater Portland Council of Governments as director of strategic partnerships. Ray, serving her second, three-year term representing District 1, will begin working for the council of governments in January after her term ends.

Ray, first elected to the council in 2015, has been a member of the council of governments’ executive committee and served as president last year. In her new role, Ray will be responsible for raising new revenues to support the agency’s programs, and will work with senior leadership, communications and project staff.

“Belinda is a compassionate champion for the residents of Greater Portland,” Kristina Egan, council of governments’ executive director, said in a statement. “While serving on the Portland City Council, Belinda has always been part of the larger regional community. She’ll bring her compassion, energy and thoughtfulness to the agency’s everyday work of improving people’s lives throughout our region.”

Ray, who lives in the Bayside neighborhood, represents a diverse district that includes the East End of the Portland peninsula, a section of Back Cove, downtown, Commercial Street and six Casco Bay islands.

In 2019, Ray ran for mayor, but she dropped out of the race that included incumbent Ethan Strimling, saying the timing was not right. Kate Snyder won the election.

Ray, who issued a release about her decision to not seek re-election, said that as District 1 councilor she sought to improve the quality of life for Portland residents. She has worked on issues that include updating the city’s sound ordinance, preserving open space, regulating pesticides, improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and other transit options in the region, and creating a new, state-of-the-art service center for people experiencing homelessness.

“During my time on the Council, I was fortunate to serve as the President of GPCOG, which gave me a window into our surrounding communities here in Cumberland County and beyond,” Ray said in the release. “I look forward to taking on the role of Director of Strategic Partnerships at GPCOG, where I can continue to advance regional goals that will enhance and improve the lives of all Greater Portland residents.”

Ray said she will no longer serve on the council of governments’ executive committee or the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS) policy committee. The two entities agreed in May 2020 to have PACTS become part of the council of governments while retaining its responsibilities as a metropolitan planning organization. Ray said she will withdraw from both to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder will appoint replacements for Ray at a future City Council meeting.

According to Ray’s biography posted on the city’s website, she is a native Mainer who grew up in Newcastle. She attended UMaine Orono and moved to the Portland area in 1992. She has lived in the East Bayside neighborhood since 2004 and in 2007 helped found the East Bayside Neighborhood Association. She is also a freelance writer and editor who has written 24 books for young readers. She teaches writing and literature classes to students ages 10 and up.

The council of governments has evolved over the years under new leadership. It has adapted to changing times that demand more cooperation among cities and towns on issues that include the opioid crisis, COVID-19, racial injustice, immigration, climate change, broadband expansion and homelessness.

The regional planning agency, which receives dues from 25 cities and towns, distributes federal planning and transportation money throughout Cumberland County and northern York County.


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