Four-term Mayor Geri McCaleb was defeated Tuesday in Grand Haven’s primary, as councilmen Josh Brugger and Bob Monetza carried the votes to reach a head-to-head contest in November.
Vying for two City Council seats, incumbent Mike Fritz will move on toward retaining his seat with 1,135 votes in Tuesday’s primary, while Ryan Cummins and Jamie Cooper followed with 782 and 713 votes, respectively. Collin Beighley will also proceed to the Nov. 5 general election after edging Eric Brenberger for the final spot, 273-225.
Brugger received 741 votes to Monetza’s 562 and McCaleb’s 534 in the four city precincts. His widest lead was carried in precinct 4 with 123 votes to McCaleb’s 63, while Monetza followed in the precinct with 103.
Brugger, 41, left his seat open to enter the mayoral race after serving a four-year term as a council member.
“Thank you to Mayor McCaleb for eight years of dedicated service to the citizens of Grand Haven,” he said after the results came in. “I am humbled by the support shown for me tonight. There is still a lot of work to be done and I look forward to a good, positive race with Councilman Monetza.”
Monetza, 65, has served on the council since 2009 after serving as chairman of the city’s Planning Commission. He said he wished the turnout was higher, but said absentee ballots played a bigger role this election since the passage of Proposition 3 last November in Michigan.
“I want to thank everybody who supported me and worked for me,” Monetza said. “... From here we move on. The work is just starting.”
McCaleb said she has seen many projects accomplished during her tenure with the city, such as completion of the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.
“It’s been a great time,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a great privilege, but the voters are the voters and that’s the way it goes. They make the call.”
Ryan Cummins, 31, is a municipal event planner, and serves part time as a marine and reserve deputy for the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. He serves on the city’s Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.
Cooper, 37, is the owner of a local business she calls a “chamber of commerce for the marijuana industry.” She has advocated for the city’s adoption of a medical marijuana ordinance. She has been a member of the city’s Musical Fountain committee since 2016, as well as multiple marijuana industry and political action groups.
“I am so grateful for the support I have received from people in the community and for those who voted to help me move on to the general election,” Cooper said. “I am excited to spend the next few weeks meeting with voters and listening to some of their concerns. If people in this community want to see change, it’s important they get to know their candidate and show up to vote in November.”
Brugger’s campaign has faced controversy during the past week. Three fliers were recently mailed to city residents encouraging them to call and “thank” the councilman, paid for by the West Michigan Community Preservation Fund, a political action committee funded by anonymous donors. Brugger said he had nothing to do with the mailers, which contained photos of his children and his personal cellphone number.
On Tuesday, Ottawa County Clerk Justin Roebuck was informed by a Grand Haven-area resident that Brugger’s yard signs, which read “Josh Brugger Mayor,” could have implied he was the incumbent. The councilman, notified of the error by Roebuck, made the rounds Tuesday morning attaching “elect” stickers before the wording on his campaign signs all over town.
Roebuck said this illegal sign usage has occurred in local political races a handful of times in the past decade, and typically results from an “honest mistake.” A misdemeanor charge could be pursued at the discretion of the county prosecutor if wrongdoing was suspected, Roebuck said. The county clerk said the law is vague, giving no suggestion for a proper fix and offering no guidance on how large the lettering should appear on a sign.
Tuesday’s election results are unofficial until the Ottawa County Board of Canvassers certifies the election later this week.
Grand Haven voters on Nov. 5 will also choose between Board of Light & Power trustee candidates Andy Cawthon and Todd Crum, and will decide whether to approve a perpetual millage of 3 mills for infrastructure funding.