John was first elected to the Ballarat City Council in a by-election in March 2008 as the Councillor for the Learmonth Ward. He was re-elected to Ballarat City Council in December 2008, and again in 2012 as a North Ward Councillor. In September 2014, Councillor Philips was elected Mayor of Ballarat by his Councillor colleagues. He has taken 12 months leave from his plumbing business to fulfil the role as Mayor full-time. One of three North Ward Councillors, Councillor Philips is also a People and Communities Portfolio Councillor. Councillor Philips is dedicated to increasing the level of communication and information between Council and ratepayers, to minimise rate increases and to improve financial accountability. Councillor Philips is involved with many community groups in the Cardigan, Miners Rest and Learmonth areas including the Country Fire Authority, the Victorian Farmers Federation, Landcare and the Ballarat Chinese Community. Councillor Philips is a licensed plumber, gas fitter and farmer.