Next month, for the first time in nearly 50 years, Gary Fortier will not serve in any volunteer or elected position with the city of Ellsworth.
Fortier, a longtime city councilor, is not seeking re-election Nov. 5 to the seven-member panel, to which he first was elected in March of 1992. Fortier did not seek re-election to the board in 2001, but was elected again in 2004 and has served on the board ever since.
Fortier, 65, started out as a teenager in 1970 serving as a volunteer with the city’s fire department, carrying on a family tradition that involved his grandfather, father and older brothers. In addition to his firefighter duties and later serving on the council, Fortier also has volunteered on more than a dozen different city committees and civic organizations.
Fortier said Tuesday that it took a lot of soul-searching, but he decided it was time to step down. He retired from his electrician’s business last year after injuring his knee. He said he has a lot to do around the house and things he wants to do with his wife, Carol Fortier.
“No one will step up until you step aside,” he said about encouraging others to volunteer or run for office.
Fortier was honored for his decades of service Monday night at the council’s regular monthly meeting, his last before he steps down. His wife, relatives, friends and several firefighters attended the meeting to applaud as Marc Blanchette, the city council chairman, read prepared remarks and presented Fortier with an honorary plaque.
Several other members of the council praised Fortier for his decades of service.
Councilor Dale Hamilton jokingly thanked Fortier for “saving his marriage” years ago when he spontaneously stopped while driving past Hamilton’s home to help Hamilton and his wife move a couch into his house. Fortier’s tendency to drop what he was doing to volunteer to help someone out has been exemplary of Fortier’s commitment to public service, he said.
Councilor John Moore said there is no way to accurately tally the total number of times or ways that Fortier has helped out with city programs or decisions. Volunteering his skills as an electrician for local community events or clearing snow from the city hockey rink on early winter mornings are just two of the ways he has volunteered his time.
“There is so much he has done without asking for thanks or for money,” Moore said.
Fortier said he is grateful for many of the opportunities he has had to serve, including his involvement in recent years with the Maine Municipal Association and, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, on the state emergency response commission. He added that one of his prize mementos is a hand-written note from Stephen Fay, former editor of the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper, thanking him for his service on the City Council.
“I thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Fortier said. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing, but I won’t be leaving Ellsworth.”