(KPAX) Veteran Missoula County Commissioner Dave Strohmaier hopes future city and county leaders honor Mayor John Engen's memory by continuing his commitment to collaboration and good relations between the two governments.

The recent passing of Engen comes after a chapter of collaboration between the city and the county; a chapter that Strohmaier believes should continue to be written.

"I think about the great strides we've made in strengthening the relationship between city and county government and jointly coming to realize that the City of Missoula is in Missoula County. We need to be working together," Strohmaier said.

"The relationship over the years — and over the decades — has not always been smooth, but John has certainly been right there with us as the Board of County Commissioners in recent years, figuring out how we can jointly work together for the good and benefit of the folks who we represent because this is our community too," Strohmaier continued.

Strohmaier has a unique perspective on Engen's passing, having been the one who filled his council seat when his friend was elected mayor. That doesn't mean the pair always agreed all of the time. Strohmaier, and others on those city councils, would frequently forge their own positions and suggest their own solutions. But Engen was patient with the process.

"Back in the mid-2000s, we were all kind of struggling to figure out what it is we're supposed to be doing. And folks might not realize that now having seen John as a pretty polished leader and facilitator of meetings," Strohmaier recalled.

"But we're all trying to figure it out together and we figured out how to have that give and take, how to be open to new ideas how to work together as a council," Strohmaier told MTN News. "And I'm confident that the leadership that he provided is going to be an inspiration to many of us as we move forward and try to keep this a great community."

A good example of that was the combined efforts launched last year to help the homeless and tackle Missoula's housing issues, and efforts to keep Marshall Mountain open to the public.

Strohmaier said that even though Engen may be gone, he believes that collaboration between the city and the county will continue. In fact, it's on his "to do" list to see that that happens.

"Yeah, we've made such great strides over the past years. I think John would be extremely disappointed if we backslid into an era of controversy and needless rancor,"
Strohmaier said.

"I think one of the things that we can do to honor our good friend and former Mayor John Engen is to carry on the work that he's established here in the City of Missoula, and Missoula County for that matter," Strohmaier concluded.

The City of Missoula is expecting to release a list of mayoral applicants on Friday afternoon.