MISSOULA - At least 19 candidates met the filing deadline on Friday — several at the last minute — in their bid to replace the late Mayor John Engen at the city's helm, though the list is not complete and has not been vetted for residency requirements, a city official said.
Two of the 19 known candidates are current members of the Missoula City Council, including Jordan Hess and Mike Nugent; one is a former member of City Council in Patrick Weasel Head, and one is a former candidate for mayor in Jacob Elder.
Now that the application period has closed, each member of the City Council will have an opportunity to nominate one of the candidates for interviews, which will be conducted by the Montana League of Women Voters.
Council members this week began crafting a list of questions they intend to ask each nominee. While two of the questions represent the pet priorities of two specific council members and have been criticized as such, the other questions look to explore a candidate's philosophy of the job and the city's key priorities.
No question thus far asks about economic issues, jobs, taxation or growth.
Once the nominees have been interviewed, the City Council will begin the process of appointing a new mayor. It's the same process used to name an individual to fill a vacant seat on City Council or a judge on Municipal Court if a seat opens up mid-term.
The winning nominee will need to win at least seven City Council votes, even if all 12 council members aren't present. The more council members who aren't present, the harder it may be to reach that seven-vote threshold.
“Someone's name must be called seven times in order for the appointment to be made,” said City Clerk Marty Rehbein. “If no candidate receives seven votes, the vote will be called again until someone gets seven votes in that particular candidate pool.”
But under city rules, if the council conducts two roll-call votes that result in the same outcome and no appointee receives seven votes, new nominees can then be named. Those nominees can be any individual that qualifies for the job, even if they did not submit an application or sit through an interview.
However, that's not the preferred outcome.
“Pulling in from the outside probably isn't the best fit. I would be hesitant to go outside the pool, to pull someone in and just make them mayor,” said Acting Mayor and Council President Gwen Jones.
Whoever is nominated to serve as mayor, the individual will have to run for the seat in the next municipal election to complete Engen's term, which expires in 2023. At that point, another election for mayor will be held covering a full term in office.
In alphabetical order, the known candidates (so far) are:
- Brandi Atanasoff
- Teigan Avery
- Jacob Elder
- Ken Grinde
- Jordan Hess
- Sam Kulla
- Menodora LeMaster
- Sean McCoy
- Mike Nugent
- Scott Ranf
- Fred Rice
- Shane Rooney
- Todd Smith
- Michael Sowell
- Tyler Taylor
- Giles Thelen
- Mike Thomas
- Logan Ward
- Patrick Weasel Head