Smith is Granite Shoals city manager
The Granite Shoals City Council voted 5-2 to hire Interim City Manager Peggy Smith for the permanent position during a special meeting on Tuesday, March 7.
The decision came after a month of back-and-forth among councilors concerning the city’s contract with executive recruitment firm Strategic Government Resources. The contract was recently put on hold when some members of the council decided to take a closer look at Smith, who had applied for the job.
The council came to its decision after a lengthy executive session and public discussion. Mayor Aaron Garcia and Place 3 Councilor Samantha Ortis opposed the hire and were the two dissenting votes.
Smith thanked the council for its decision, adding that it was time for Granite Shoals to move forward.
“I’ve said over and over that it’s time we start treating our neighbors like neighbors and quit being toxic,” she said. “If we used all the efforts we put toward the negative toward good, positive things, no one could stop us. That is where we have to go.”
Smith has been with the city of Granite Shoals since 2008, serving as the interim city manager since June 2022 after Jeff Looney was fired from the position. She formally applied later in the year and continued to lobby for the job when the council chose to hire an executive recruitment firm, SGR, in October 2022.
Several councilors spoke out about their dissatisfaction with the search process.
“There are many good things on both sides of the coin,” said Place 6 Councilor Phil Ort. “Many people have said we need new ideas; many people have said we need stability. I can see both sides of the issue. At this point in time, I do believe that our city needs stability, and we need to move forward.”
Ortis agreed with Ort’s assessment but thought Granite Shoals could benefit from continuing its search with SGR.
“The instability of the city doesn’t come from Peggy Smith,” Ortis said. “She is stable. I think the instability comes from us as council members. It would behoove us to seek out other qualified individuals, just for comparison. If she comes out on top, then great. That’s been my opinion since the beginning.”
The motion to hire Smith came from Place 2 Councilor Kevin Flack, who was appointed to the council in October 2022.
“I was probably as tough on Ms. Smith in the executive session as anybody,” Flack said. “Ms. Smith has seven bosses, and this has all played out in the public for her.”
Mayor Pro Tem Ron Munos led the meeting in the absence of Garcia, who later joined virtually via Zoom.
“I thought we had a very open and direct discussion with Ms. Smith,” Munos said. “This is a particularly tough issue for me because there are people that I like and respect on both sides of the argument.”
After the vote, Place 4 Councilor Steve Hougen attempted to explain the conflict that led to suspending the executive recruitment process with SGR. He was criticized for “rehashing” old issues.
Hougen asserted that the search with SGR could not continue because the process had been upended when a job description posted by the company had to be taken down. Mayor Garcia had formed a committee to help with the search and then approved the job description presented by SGR without consulting the committee. The ensuing conflict led to Garcia resigning as chair of the committee and handing the position to Munos.
Munos immediately began to lobby for hiring Smith and suspending the $27,000 SGR contract. So far, the city has paid $8,301.67 of that amount but will not have to pay the rest if the contract is terminated.
Hougen’s comments led to heated discussions between himself and Garcia during the meeting.
“It is my opinion that I am trying to be painted in a negative light as to what happened with SGR,” Garcia said. “I have already admitted maybe I did jump the gun, but we’ve already gone through that. We’ve already had a discussion about it.”
Hougen insisted on the necessity of discussing the matter and countered Garcia.
“We’re not talking about you, sir. We’re talking about the process,” he said. “I don’t want to make it about any individual. We’re trying to answer why it’s impossible to continue with the SGR contract.”
Munos stepped in and advised that more than enough discussion had taken place and adjourned the meeting.