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Missoula Mayor Engen passes away at age 57

Engen Passing
Mayor Engen Passing Council
Posted at 10:29 AM, Aug 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-16 15:01:13-04

MISSOULA - Missoula Mayor John Engen has passed away at age 57.

Missoula City Council President Gwen Jones tells MTN News he passed away on Monday morning.

It was announced in March that Engen would be undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Engen was first elected as mayor in 2005 and was serving his fifth term in office. He was Missoula's 50th and longest-serving mayor.

"It's just a hard day for the City of Missoula and we're just going to figure it out and go forward with as much grace as John led this city with," Missoula City Council President Gwen Jones said during a Monday afternoon news conference.

Mayor Engen Passing Council
A news conference discussing the passing of Missoula Mayor John Engen on Aug. 15, 2022.

"He left us in good hands," added Missoula City Council Vice President Jordan Hess.

Watch the full news conference discussion Engen's passing below.

FULL News Conference: Missoula officials discuss passing of John Engen

Jones will now serve as acting mayor for the next 30 days.

Applications for candidates interested in running for mayor of Missoula will be accepted beginning on Tuesday.

WEB EXTRA: Missoula mayor succession guidelines

Click here to learn additional information about the mayoral succession procedures for Missoula.

“John was one of the kindest, funniest and most thoughtful people I have ever worked with,” said former Gov. Steve Bullock. “He dedicated his life to serving the town where he was born and raised, and he went to work every day with a vision of how a great place could be even better. He was bold in leadership, thoughtful in approach, fiercely loyal and steadfast in his determination to make life better for every member of his community. Missoula and all of Montana lost a legend today.”

“John left Missoula better off than he found it,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the federal Bureau of Land Management and long-time Missoula conservationist. “He understood that the open space surrounding our town – which is open to everyone in large part because of his leadership – is not only critical to Missoula’s economy but a fundamental part of who we are as Missoulians, He left us far, far too soon, but his service will be felt for generations to come.”

“John Engen exemplified caring for community, both as Missoula’s mayor and as a lifetime resident who understood that our community is stronger when we all do our part to help others,” said Susan Hay Patrick, CEO of United Way of Missoula County. “In John’s own words, he always enjoyed getting great work done with really smart people, whether it was through local government or arm-in-arm with nonprofits. He was a giver, a volunteer and an advocate. That showed whether he was serving meals at the Poverello Center, serving on boards of directors of causes he believed in or raising thousands of dollars for nonprofits as Missoula’s most popular charity auctioneer.”

John Engen
Missoula Mayor John Engen passed away on Aug. 15, 2022.

Missoula County Commissioners Juanita Vero, Josh Slotnick and Dave Strohmaier issued the following statement regarding the passing of Mayor Engen

Our hearts are heavy with the news of Mayor Engen's passing. John was our colleague in leading this community, but more importantly, he was our friend. He led Missoula with kindness, compassion and humor. Everything he did, every decision he made, was in the interest of making his hometown a better place. We will miss him dearly.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester released the following statement after the passing of Engen.

Mayor Engen was a visionary who paired a quick wit with an ability to work with people to lead Missoula. He was incredibly smart and worked his tail off, and above all, he was a dear friend who will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins also commented on Engen's passing.

Born in Missoula in 1964, Engen is a product of Willard Grade School, Hellgate High School and the University of Montana. He worked in print journalism, was a partner in two small businesses and served a term as a Missoula City Council member before being elected mayor for the first time in 2005.

Details about a public memorial service will follow in the next few days, according to a news release.

- information from Mark Thorsell included in this report