Engen sets vision for Missoula


MISSOULA, Mont. - John Engen is poised to become the longest serving mayor in Missoula history, surpassing Dwight Mason's 10 years in office in the 1930s.

It hasn't been easy so far. Missoula faced a federal investigation into how it handles sexual assaults. The city has since reached a settlement.

Missoula lost thousands of jobs. Macy's closed downtown. Now, Engen sees more retail filling storefronts and being developed at the South Crossing. This month marks the beginning of this Missoula mayor's third term in office. John Engen hopes to bolster good strides he sees in Missoula's economy by bringing riverfront, city-owned property, off the Orange Street Bridge back to life. Engen says, "We think it is a hotel, retail center, medical offices, residential, restaurants and possibly a conference center." Possibly even more important to the mayor is buying Missoula's water supplier. "Water is fundamental to life. You can't have a community and city without a reliable, affordable, clean water supply. The folks who are running Mountain Water today, the employees, are doing a great job. The ownership, however, is in flux. Today it is owned by a global investment fund whose interest lie elsewhere. They are largely about profit. The city of Missoula would not be, so this monopoly owned, essential public utility should be in the hands of the community it serves," he explains. When we pointed out that some citizens are frustrated with daily business like plowing, Engen said he hadn't heard that feedback this year. He went on to say he wants to accomplish the more ambitious goals while still running day-to-day operations well and modernize them. "We're always looking for better ways to serve our citizens, and ways to do business better as a municipality. One of the ways we are doing that, it we are bringing together a number of departments that have been separate together, under single leadership, so they can become a little more effective on how we deliver those services, whether it's human resources, the city clerk's office, IT, finance, fleet, facilities," says Engen. The mayor hopes to do this by creating a position called the Central Services Director, who will streamline the operations of many departments, rather than have them blindly operating independently of one another. The mayor believes the city will purchase the water source this year. The development of the riverfront triangle may just be getting started during his tenure. We asked if he would consider running again after this term, and Engen responded that he is open to the idea.