Four open seats on the Peaks Island Council have drawn no official candidates and just one write-in for the November election in which Portland voters also will consider a proposal to formally recognize the council in the city charter.

Peter Eckel, chair of the Peaks Island Council, said it’s not unusual for council elections to draw few or no candidates. The island has only about 1,000 year-round residents, and he said that while recruiting councilors can be a challenge, the council is still important.

“We’re disappointed, but it’s not unprecedented,” said Eckel, who himself is not seeking reelection. “We have a lot of active volunteers on Peaks, but to my knowledge this is the only (position) where you have to go through the process of running and getting elected.”

In the past when no candidates have come forward, the council has put out a notice seeking interested residents to serve on the council, then interviewed and appointed people for a one-year term during a public meeting, Eckel said.

“Hopefully, folks will be appointed and then end up running for a full term (of three years),” he said.

The Peaks Island Council, established in 2007 according to an island website, is a seven-member body whose function is to gather community input and make recommendations to the Portland City Council on transportation, public works, planning, zoning, crime and public safety, among other issues. They also may make recommendations for ordinance amendments, fundraise for local improvements or events, and undertake volunteer projects.


In addition to Eckel’s seat, those held by council members Scott Mohler, S.E. Rafferty and Natasha Markov-Riss also are up for election this fall. Mohler said he is seeking reelection and that while he missed the deadline to register as an official candidate, he has registered with the city as a write-in. 

Neither Rafferty nor Markov-Riss responded to messages Monday seeking information about their plans for the election.

Eckel said the council serves an important function in advocating for issues unique to Peaks, such as parking for islanders on the mainland. He said he isn’t running again because after three years on the council he thinks it would be good to have a new person serve.

“I think turnover is good to be honest,” Eckel said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed it. My fellow councilors are delightful, hard-working and sincere, but there are other organizations I want to devote more time to and I felt like it was appropriate to have some new people.”

City spokesperson Jessica Grondin said Monday that write-in candidates were required to submit notice to the city clerk’s office by Sept. 9 and that officials are aware of one write-in candidate for the Peaks Island Council.

In the event seats are unfilled due to a lack of candidates on the ballot, Grondin said the current chair would have to pick people to serve one-year terms and the city would then seek candidates for the election cycle next November.


Voters citywide are being asked on the Nov. 8 ballot to formally establish the Peaks Island Council in the city charter. The council currently exists only in ordinance, which is subject to change by the City Council, while revisions to the charter require a lengthier review by a charter commission and approval by voters.

Eckel said the charter commission proposal – Question 6 on the ballot – was requested by the Peaks Island Council. “Our thinking was, right now we’re only in ordinance,” Eckel said. “Twenty years from now, if the City Council gets irritated at the Peaks Island Council, they could write us out of existence by changing ordinance. Our thought was to formally recognize it in the city’s charter.”

He said the council wasn’t sure how the commission would respond to the request, as they were considering several other issues, many of them much more complex. But Eckel said the island council was pleased to see the proposal make it on the list of the commission’s final recommendations.


“Of all the referendum questions, in our view this is the simplest,” Eckel said. “We have this existing ordinance and we’re going to put it into the city charter. It doesn’t change our rules or our authority, it just formalizes the council.”

Ryan Lizanecz, who served on the charter commission and brought forward the proposal to codify the Peaks Island Council, said the proposed change in the charter simply requires the City Council to maintain an ordinance establishing the Peaks Island Council, but doesn’t get into specifics, such as how many seats should be on the council.

“I’m not an islander, but I have talked to folks on the island about a history of sometimes tensions with the city of Portland,” Lizanecz said. “I look at things like the short-term rental ballot initiative that could impact Peaks particularly and I think it’s important they have this council.”

The charter commission is proposing eight of the 13 questions city voters will consider in November, while one of five citizen-initiated referendums includes a proposal for limiting short-term rentals, including on Portland’s islands.

The islands are currently exempt from a 400-unit cap on non-owner occupied short-term rentals and some opponents of the referendum say that doing away with that exemption and extending further restrictions on the islands ignores the unique role of short-term rentals there.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.