Missoula Mayor John Engen on Wednesday announced his intention to seek another term in office, saying he’ll focus on basic city services while addressing other issues, from housing to climate change.
Reelection would mark Engen’s fifth term in office, making him the city’s longest-serving mayor. He said his experience has equipped him to handle issues abdicated by the federal government.
“Serving the poor, addicted, mentally ill and others suffering in our community will require the kind of leadership and innovation I’ve engaged in throughout my service as mayor,” Engen said Wednesday. “We’ve seen too clearly the havoc that’s the product of inexperienced, arrogant, ‘outsider’ leadership.”
While the filing period doesn’t open until Thursday, April 22, a number of others have stated their intention to file for office. Among them, Jacob Elder has said he’ll challenge Engen for the job while Dori Gilels and Daniel Carlino have both announced their plans to seek a seat on City Council representing Ward 3.
Other candidates will likely come forward before the filing period closes on June 21. So far, Engen is the only incumbent to state his intention to seek reelection.
Engen has fended off challengers in the past and plans to campaign on experience and results. In announcing his campaign on Wednesday, he cited the city’s work on climate change, it’s new housing policy, its crisis response unit and strong economy.
Public safety also remains a key area of focus, he said.
“I approved a grant program to establish a mobile-crisis team to relieve police officers of some of the calls that are best suited to mental-health professionals,” Engen said. “I’ve invested in training to ensure we only use force as a last resort and that our officers are trained in de-escalation, crisis response and implicit bias. I will continue to invest in innovative programs.”
While issues around equity will follow the next mayor into office, the city’s housing crisis will remain one of local government’s top challenges. Engen established the city’s new Office of Housing and Community Development and appointed a team to create Missoula’s first housing plan.
Engen believes the foundation is now in place, and along with a new Housing Trust Fund and private partnerships, the results will bring thousands of new units of affordable housing to the market in the coming years.
Streamlining the city’s planning and permitting process is also needed, he said.
“Without seasoned leadership, vision, trust and solid relationships, any solutions to our housing crisis would be piecemeal and inefficient,” Engen said. “The next four years will make all the difference in whether Missoula suffers the fate of many popular cities whose middle-class, working residents and seniors are priced out of the market, or we rise to the occasion, make bold choices and strategic investment, and fix our housing problem as a community.”