Jessica Falconer at her home on Swan Lake Avenue in Belfast
Jessica Falconer at her home on Swan Lake Avenue in Belfast
Update, October 10, 2018: Jessica Falconer has withdrawn and will not appear on the municipal ballot as a candidate for Belfast City Council representing Ward 5.

Ward 5 is separated from the rest of Belfast by the Passagassawakeag River and Belfast Bay, but Jessica Falconer hopes to change what she believes is more than a geographic partition.

“I would like Belfast east side to be more connected with the rest of Belfast,” said Falconer, who lives with her husband and two children on Swan Lake Avenue, also known as Route 141.

The location of her home is a key component in the 38-year-old’s desire to serve as the new Ward 5 city councilor, which would be her first elected position. Councilor John Arrison confirmed he will not seek reelection for the next term due to scheduling difficulties with his business.

Falconer has lived in Belfast for 10 years and holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maine. She first met with the council as a member of the public circulating a petition to improve safety in her area, which she called the “least pedestrian-friendly” in the city.

“When I’m driving and it’s dark, I see people pushing baby strollers on my road to get to the store because they don’t have a car and they need baby aspirin or whatever from the Big Apple convenience store,” she said. “This is a very unsafe road to walk on. I have done it to make a point, but it’s horribly unsafe.”

The city contracted an engineer to assess the area, resulting in what Falconer said were four options rejected by the council over perceived difficulties with state regulations.

Now in addition to making the ward physically safer, she aims to draw it closer to the overall community and culture of Belfast.

“There aren’t any city-sponsored activities that go on in this ward. The footbridge is what connects us and, of course, the Route 1 bridge,” she said, noting it is the only ward without a playground in its city-owned park. “I would like to organize more events that either conclude or begin at the east end of the footbridge to just try to make city events more welcoming and inclusive of Ward 5.”

Falconer has never felt her ward was unwelcome or misrepresented, she simply wants to be the one to communicate on behalf of her neighbors. “This ward has value and things to offer, as well as needs,” she said, adding that she is “open to ideas” about how to make changes.

While in graduate school, Falconer interned with State Sen. Geoffrey Gratwick, a Democrat representing Bangor and Hermon. Now a social worker at Oceanside High School in Rockland, Falconer is no longer a Democrat, instead filing as an independent due to her frustration over the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

“I was incredibly disappointed in both mainstream parties’ selections in the primaries,” Falconer said. “I do not think either mainstream party represents ordinary people’s interests.”

In her past dealings with the city council on issues including road safety and plastic bags, she “felt heard even when no solution was pursued.”

Falconer knows each of the current members and believes she would do well in a council setting. Along with Mayor Samantha Paradis, Falconer would be a newcomer to a group that has served together for years, which she believes would be good for the city.

“I think that there is a great deal of value in having a mix of seasoned veterans and new blood,” she said, noting that she voted for Paradis and believes they could work well together, although they are “unequivocally” distinct people. “I think we would have the opportunity to offer different and diverse perspectives.”

While Falconer stressed her interests and efforts as a council member will not focus solely on Ward 5, improving the connection between the east side and the rest of Belfast will remain among her highest priorities.

“It is where I live, so it is very personal for me,” she said.