Newly elected Granite Shoals Councilor Phil Ort

Newly elected Granite Shoals City Council member Phil Ort, who helped initiate a recall election for the mayor and another councilor, is letting bygones be bygones as he takes a place on the dais in November. Staff photo by Jennifer Fierro

In August, Phil Ort led a group of Granite Shoals residents in a petition drive to recall many of the City Council members, before settling on two: then-Mayor Carl Brugger and Place 2 Councilor Bruce Jones.

Now, Ort is joining the council, where he’ll share a dais with several people whom he tried to remove, bringing up the question of how he’ll get past previous issues. 

“It was not personal in any way,” Ort said of the recall petition. “I’m not carrying hard feelings and grudges. The citizens being represented is the most important thing, not personal feelings. I’m going to go onto the council focused on the city. I have certain ideas the citizens want, and I’ll fight for them.”

In the Nov. 3 election, Ort garnered 327 votes in the Place 6 race, 28 more than incumbent Will Skinner mustered. Though Skinner remains on the council as mayor after assuming that position in October following the resignation of Brugger.

Brugger resigned after a recall election was called for him and Jones. A few weeks later, Jones also resigned but was on the November ballot unopposed, so he’ll rejoin the council this month. 

The recall election began in August after the City Council approved a $37,000 raise for City Manager Jeff Looney. A week after the raise, two councilors tried to rescind it after pushback by some residents, but the move ultimately failed. Following the raise, Ort and others formed the Citizens’ Rights Group of Granite Shoals with the goal of recalling the council members who supported the raise. Eventually, the group pulled back the scope of the recall effort to focus on Brugger and Jones. The members were successful, and a May 2021 recall election was set. 

Since both Brugger and Jones resigned, that specific election is no longer on the books.

Ort’s interest in the City Council didn’t begin with the petition drive. In the spring, he was one of four applicants to fill the seat vacated by former Councilor Todd Holland, who resigned after he moved out of the city. Council members then voted and appointed Libby Edwards to fill the seat. Edwards lost the Nov. 3 election to keep the Place 5 seat to Shirley Martin. And Place 4 Councilor Steve Hougen ran unopposed and retained his seat.

On Nov. 17, Ort and the other Election Day winners will be sworn in. When he walks into the council chambers for his swearing-in, Ort said he is doing so with a clean slate.

“I would like to extend an olive branch. I would like to move forward together,” he said. “What happened in the past is in the past. I hope bygones can be bygones. I do want to go forward.”

And, he noted, if there are negative feelings, that’s understandable, too.

“I regret if there are personal feelings that we hurt,” Ort said. “(The recall election) is what the citizens wanted. They elected me in the process. I don’t want bad feelings in the city. I don’t want division and hatred in the city.”

Ort said he knows all councilors have the same intention: to do the best they can for Granite Shoals and its residents.

“I did what I believe was in the best interest of the city,” he said. “I know some can’t get past it overnight. I regret they took it personally. It was not personal whatsoever.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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