By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Missoula Mayor John Engen showed up early at the Missoula County Elections Center on Thursday to file for reelection, saying progress made on several fronts needs to be brought to fruition.

A number of candidates filed to run for local office on the first morning of the filing period, including Engen, who's seeking his fourth term as mayor, and Ward 2 representative Jordan Hess, who's seeking his second term on the City Council.

By 10 a.m., Kathleen Jenks also filed to hold her seat as a Municipal Court judge, while perennial candidate Greg Strandberg filed to run for City Council in Ward 4.

“We've done so much together, and there's so much more to do,” Engen said. “We have a water company to run, we have housing issues to address, we have booming development to manage, transportation issues, and a University of Montana that can use our help.”

Engen was first elected as the city's mayor in 2006 and is rumored to be Missoula's longest serving mayor. Under his watch, the city emerged from the recession and entered a building boom, with a record $245 million in building permits filed last year.

While an expanding tax base remains high on Engen's agenda, the mayor has more recently turned his focus to housing. Last year, he created the Office of Housing and Community Development in an effort to create new housing opportunities and address cost.

Next week, Engen is heading to Spokane, Washington, to explore that city's progress in creating a housing first model to serve homeless individuals with chronic addictions.

“For me, it's never about what I do – it's about what we do together,” Engen said. “We've taken a water company in private hands and transferred it to public ownership, and that's going to mater for a very long time. It's a very big deal.”

Engen is likely to see a field of challengers take shape over the next few weeks, though none had filed to run for mayor as of Thursday morning.

“I like the process – it's really about defining what I do and defining what we do,” Engen said of the campaign process. “It's about what the community is interested in, and elections are a great way to understand the minds of Missoula.”

Rebecca Connors, elections supervisor for Missoula County, said the filing period will remain open through June 19. Once that process closes, the elections staff will determine what's needed to hold a primary election.

In years past, several candidates have filed to run for a single City Council ward, prompting a primary for any ward that includes a certain number of candidates. The top two vote-takers generally advance to the general election.

As it stands, Ward 5 council member Annelise Hedahl and Ward 6 council member Marilyn Marler aren't expected to seek another term.

“We have to look at each ward individually to see if a primary will occur,” said Connors. “The primary will be Sept. 12, and we'll move on with the top two successful candidates to the general election in November.”

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