Samantha Paradis has been moderately active on Twitter during her nearly 18 months as mayor of Belfast, but on April 10 she logged a flurry of new posts with the hashtag “paypublicservants.” A?handful of other Twitter users from other parts of the county chimed in as part of a “Twitter town hall” on a subject that Paradis said she came to feel strongly about after she was elected.

“It didn’t affect my decision to run, the salary, per se,” she said, speaking the day before the town hall. “I was thinking about the schedule and responsibilities. I was not entirely sure about the pay, but I figured I would find a way to make it work.”

In Belfast, the mayor gets a stipend of $2,500 a year. The rate was increased in 2017 from $1,200. Paradis said she regularly works 15 to 20 hours a week. The registered nurse started school part-time to become a nurse practitioner after she was elected, which left less time to earn money. And as a woman, she said, that time was at least statistically less valuable than it would be for a man doing the same juggling act.

“That first couple semesters, I took out $15,000 in student loans that I may have avoided if I wasn’t elected,” she said.

The Twitter town hall wasn’t well received on the Facebook page “You Know You Love Belfast if …..” a magnet for debate about city politics where several councilors regularly post their opinions. A post by Councilor Neal Harkness about the town hall event drew 150 comments and at least two offers from commenters to do the job for free.

“It would be perfectly reasonable for the taxpayers to ask her how much she thinks we should be paying her,” Harkness wrote.

Further down the thread, Councilor Eric Sanders said he felt “really squeamish” when Paradis brought up the topic at the end of a council meeting the previous night. Sanders, who has been a moderate voice in the clashes between the council and mayor over the past year, went on to call the Twitter town hall “arrogant and pointless.”

“May I also add WTF does it have to do with the City of Belfast,” he said. “I kinda feel like the Council has been co-opted for some weird social change instead of doing our jobs for the City and its Citizens and it pisses me off. ENOUGH. sorry not sorry for venting but for the love of Pete, get a life! My 3 cents.”

Councilor Mike Hurley, who hasn’t pulled punches with Paradis in the past, refrained from jumping on the pile, directing his comments to the pay itself. The $150 a month he gets for serving on the council is enough, he said, but state legislators are underpaid, ensuring that “only the wealthy … retired … lawyers … or supportive families make it to Augusta. You cannot have an actual job and serve. No matter what they tell you as you consider running … [but] City council … select … boards … you can have a job and do both.”

As of April 10, Paradis hadn’t seen the thread. She mostly avoids Facebook, she said, because comments tend to get toxic. Her mother once called her crying after reading a thread about a Vermont town that elected a goat as its mayor. “There was a discussion about replacing me with a goat and questioning my nursing skills,” Paradis said. “That’s not how a welcoming and inclusive community should have discussions.”

As far as her own pay, Paradis said she doesn’t have a number in mind, and she knows that Belfast can’t afford to pay full-time elected officials as larger cities do. Her goal, she said, is to start a conversation about how to put the job within reach of a wider range of candidates, including parents and people who already are struggling to make ends meet without losing potential work time to public service.

“I don’t believe you should have to consider living in poverty when deciding to run for office,” she said.