Mayor John Engen ‘He Transitioned This Town Into a City’
Tributes to the late Missoula Mayor John Engen are coming from near and far, with kind words from former Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Montana Senator Jon Tester, however, the most poignant compliments came from close to home.
Gwen Jones, President of the Missoula City Council and who for a brief time will be acting Mayor, spoke to us just after the Mayor’s death was announced, and she praised Engen’s leadership for Missoula.
“He transitioned this town into a city,” said Jones. “And whenever you have growing pains like that, you need good leadership because Missoula has grown a lot, and I think he has successfully created a vibrant city that is very welcoming and very tolerant.”
Jones looked back on the fight to obtain Missoula’s municipal water system as a high point in his tenure as mayor.
“He got us through the 2008 recession and made some key decisions at that point in time to not only help the community get through the recession but also make sure that in the long run, we had a more diverse economic base,” she said. “The water utility acquisition, I think was one of the best things he did in terms of setting this community up for success in the future by owning its own water.”
Executive Director of the Missoula United Way Susan Hay Patrick also remembered Engen for his good humor and wit.
“I think John was a gifted leader who exemplified love for community and live that value every day as he fought to do what he thought was best for our community,” said Hay Patrick. “I think he did it with vision and with compassion. We all know he did it with humor. He was famous for his humor and his self-deprecating wit.”
Asked what she thought Missoula would miss most after losing Mayor Engen, Hay Patrick said it was his vision of what Missoula could become.
“I think it is his leadership,” she said. “I think he was a gifted leader, humble, humorous, he had vision, he was patient and was tenacious. The best way we can honor his memory is to continue to fight to build a better community for everybody, which was John's vision for Missoula.”
Former Governor Steve Bullock called us to add his voice to the tributes to the late Mayor John Engen.
“(The people of Missoula will miss) his humble approach to governing; the way that he'd say, you know, ‘my name is John and I work for the city’,” said Governor Bullock. “I think that they'll miss his humor. And I think they'll miss his vision. I mean, you could look at everything from open space bonds to getting a hold of the city water supply. I think the mayor was still as excited about going to work in the last years as when he first got elected in 2006. I think that setting that direction working with all people. Those will be incredibly difficult shoes to fill.”
Mayor Engen passed away on Monday after battling pancreatic cancer.