Mayoral Debate pits Incumbent Engen against Three Challengers
For two hours on Monday, viewers of the City Club Mayoral Debate via ZOOM had the opportunity to hear from all four men seeking the office of Missoula's Chief Executive.
Responding to questions about taxes, city budgets, the housing crunch and homelessness, the four candidates, incumbent John Engen along with challengers Jacob Elder, Shawn Knopp and Greg Strandberg made their case to be the mayor.
Closing statements included Jacob Elder thanking Mayor Engen for his years of service, but asking the voters to make way for new perspective and leadership.
“I want to thank the mayor for his service to our community,” said Elder. “I thank you truly, but 16 years in office is far too long. This is a small community, and times must change. People are changing and our needs of our community are changing. It's time that you pass on the baton to another clear thinker. As the mayor often said, ‘I get a lot more credit than I deserve because he has a great staff and advisors’. Well as your next mayor. I will have the same opportunities to work with the amazing city staff and staff as mayor.”
Strandberg based his closing statement on the housing crisis in Missoula.
“I talk to people making less than 20,000 a year, and I talk to people making over $50,000 a year,” said Strandberg. “I talk to nurses and plumbers, and they can't find places to live right now. They can't afford a house, and the situation is only going to get worse. You don't want us building in your backyard. We say ‘where can we build new housing units?’ Because if we keep pricing these people out in the market, then who’s going to serve your coffee; who is going to wash your cars and do your laundry in your hotel room, and who's going to take care of you when you're old? This is a real crisis we have here and we have a real great opportunity now to solve it.”
Shawn Knopp, a local businessman said that voter turnout is usually very small, which he said gives the incumbent an advantage. He urged all Missoula citizens to get out and vote in the September primary.
“This is your voice,” said Knopp. “If you're not happy with the current status quo, then get out and vote. My opinion is I don't care who you want to support, your voice needs to be heard now. Many didn't vote. The last election was I think 22% of the city voted. I don't think that if you have a majority of 22%, you have 11 and a half percent of the people in city of Missoula who are making all the decisions. So get out, get your vote heard and make your choices.”
Finally, Mayor Engen said basically, what you've seen for 16 years, is what you'll get for four more years.
"What I have is what I record, so good, bad or indifferent, you know how I work in office, you know what I've accomplished," he said. "And even though that I work hard toward solving problems for the community in a collaborative and cooperative way, you have seen specific solutions from me you have heard specific answers from me and you will continue to hear those from me, if you allow me the privilege of serving this community I love for another four years as your mayor."
The primary will be September 14, and only two of the four candidates will advance to the general election in November.