THE race is on to win a seat on Moray Council from the Heldon and Laich by-election on March 7.
Six candidates will contest the vacancy caused by the resignation in December of SNP councillor Carolle Ralph, in the wake of claims that she was the victim of a hate-mail and stalking campaign.
When nominations closed at 4pm on Monday, three Independents and one candidate each from the Green, SNP and Tory parties had declared their intention to stand.Pete Bloomfield (64) has been selected as the Scottish Conservative’s candidate in the by-election.
Married with a son, daughter and two grandsons, Pete moved to Moray in 2001.
Trained as an air traffic controller with the RAF, he retired in 2011 after 45 years off service.
He said: "Lossiemouth is my home and I would be honoured and humbled to be elected to serve the entire Heldon and Laich ward.
"The many communities and villages form Burghead to Miltonduff and Hopeman to Alves all have much to offer our area, and I would do my best to represent their views in the council chamber.
"I want to promote Heldon and Laich to the wider area and encourage more people to this part of Moray in the same way as I was attracted to settle here with my family when I was posted here in the early 1990s."
Independent candidate John Cowe was born in Elgin and brought up in Lossiemouth.
Coming from a family of fish merchants, he established Lossie Seafoods in the town before moving the operation to Buckie, where it has earned a reputation for exporting high quality shellfish and smoked salmon.
John (64) who is married with two grown up sons, said: "Lossiemouth and Moray has been very good to me all
my life and I hope I will be given the opportunity to give something back.
"I truly believe that there is no place for party politics in local government.
"I want what is best for the area not what’s best for a political party."
He added: "Recently I took a step back from the business, so I have lots of time on my hands to, hopefully, take what I’ve learned and my experience in business to give back to the community."
The SNP’s candidate for the Heldon and Laich ward is local website reporter Stuart Crowther, who moved to Lossiemouth several years ago.
Originally from Edinburgh, his mother came from Lossiemouth and he move to the town to retire.
Mr Crowther started his career as a telegraphist in the RAF then spent 23 years as a civil servant ending as an IT manager. He then became media manager for Hibernian before coming to Moray.
Mr Crowther said: "I believe I can represent that broad range of community interests and get the voices of those communities heard in the Moray Council.
"Having been involved in community journalism I know it is not always the tabloid headlines that represent the issues of the day in our communities but issues like the provision of adult social care services, the condition of the roads and school buildings and the quality of education in those buildings that are important.
"Most recently we have seen the destruction caused by the recent storm and it is the issues thrown up by these events that councillors must be prepared to argue the communities case on."
Former Forres councillor Jeff Hamilton was chairman of the children and young people’s committee in the last administration, but was not re-elected in last May’s ballot.
Mr Hamilton first came to Moray in 1971, when he was stationed at HMS Fulmar for a period, returning for good in 1975. Since then he has worked at either RAF Kinloss or RAF Lossiemouth.
He believes Heldon and Laich needs strong representation during a time of financial difficulties.
"They need someone who will listen to them and represent their views in an Independent manner," said Mr Hamilton. "They need someone with experience of local government, who can act on their behalf from day one.
"As an Independent councillor I answer to no one, no political party, except the people of Heldon and Laich.
"I will work with other councillors, when appropriate, irrespective of their political colours, to benefit the people of my ward.
"I make no rash promises or false claims. My only promise is that I will listen to the people of Heldon and Laich and work tirelessly on their behalf."
After standing for election for the first time in last year’s vote, the Scottish Green Party’s James MacKessack- Leitch is hitting the campaign trail again.
He comes from Alves where his family were farmers and attended West End primary and Gordonstoun schools.
Mr MacKessack-Leitch has an MSc in sustainable rural development from the Aberdeen University and now
works with transport group Hitrans.
He said: "Last May, many people hoped that the council elections would bring about a much needed change of direction for Moray.
"Instead, almost a year on it is clear that this has not happened.
"The people of Heldon and Laich now have an opportunity to vote for more of the same, or for someone who truly believes in change.
Former police sergeant Nick Traynor is standing as an Independent.
Born and educated in Dundee, he was a member of the Army’s special investigation branch before joining
Grampian Police in 1990.
"During my 21-year police career, I served the communities of Heldon and Laich as the first community police officer in Moray based at Lossiemouth, and during that time some of the projects I initiated were a monthly disco and a motocross track for the local youth," he said.
"In my opinion there is much more that could be done in respect of youth development and improving facilities in Heldon and Laich areas.
"I am well aware of the issues that affect local people, and that is why I very much welcome the recent initiative taken by the Moray community wardens regarding dog fouling."
He added: "I served the communities of Moray for 21 years, and would be proud and honoured to continue to serve the people of Heldon and Laich as their Independent councillor."
Ballots will be cast using the single transferable vote system whereby those going to the polls can select as many or as few candidates as they wish, ranking them numerically in order of preference.
The count will be carried out manually, and will take place at Lossiemouth Town Hall on Friday, March 8.