In 30 days, Missoula will have a new mayor...maybe even before then.
We know this because of state law and what it says about municipal succession.
With Engen gone, we currently have the Ice Queen in charge, Gwen Jones.
She and the rest of the City Council will work with the City Clerk - Marty Rehbein - to develop interview questions for prospective mayoral candidates, set a deadline for candidates to submit applications, and figure out how that interview process will go.
Rehbein’s office will receive all the candidate applications. At this point, anyone can apply…so long as you live within Missoula city limits and are 18 years of age.
Applications will be accepted for 10 days following the start of the application procedure.
When those 10 days are over, the City Clerk will send all those applications along to the City Council at their next meeting.
At that meeting, up to 12 applicants for mayor can be chosen to go on to the interview stage. Each City Council member can choose one candidate to advance, or none.
I suspect just 3 to 4 candidates will be chosen to advance.
Those lucky applicants that are chosen to advance will have an interview during the next City Council Committee of the Whole, meetings that typically take place on Wednesday afternoons.
Their next scheduled meeting is August 17 at 9 AM. I suspect much of the above will be ironed-out in that meeting.
When this committee interviews candidates and that’s done, it goes back to the regular City Council meeting where each member can then nominate one of those interviewees to fill the vacant mayoral position. Voting then takes place, and if someone gets a majority, they win.
That person will become mayor until the term ends in January 2026.
The only hiccup in the whole procedure is if the City Council fails to choose a candidate while voting, allowing the possibility that a new candidate can be chosen, one that didn’t even take part in the interview process.
This is a dark horse scenario that is far from likely.
What is likely is that several of the ‘older,’ more entrenched members of the City Council - Engen’s old rubber stamp brigade - will band together and choose their favored candidate…whomever that may be.
I suspect whoever is chosen will have strong ties to the business and development community, which has been the largest benefactor of city spending over the past two decades.
Here are my top picks for the next mayor of Missoula:
- Ellen Buchanan
- Ellie Hill-Boldman-Smith
- Josh Slotnick
- Marilyn Marler
- Mark Thane
- Mike Nugent
- Dave Strohmaier
- Diane Sands
- Jordan Hess
- Amber Sherrill
- Tom France
- Wendy Williams
- Susan Hay Patrick
- Marilyn Ryan
- Pam Walzer
I think those are the top picks.
At the same time…this is a great time for someone to come out of the woodwork. Someone that might never have considered politics or running a conventional race.
Think of someone in business, like a Nick Checota.
I don’t think there’s any point in conservatives applying. That rules out popular favorites like Jesse Ramos. He and others like him would never even make it to the interview stage. I doubt many will waste their time filling out the application.
This is a Democrat game. It could get ugly behind the scenes as nearly-term-limited-out legislators battle with some of the more entrenched members of the city that have never made the trip to Helena.
We could see some jockeying between the county commissioners and the city-living legislators. Members of the City Council that want a shot at the top job could come to blows with people that have run for Council before, the legislature before, or even nepotistic candidates like Nugent and Williams. Never underestimate how far a family name or the family wealth can go in a toss-up-scenario race like this.
It’s gonna be a shit show, it’s just how much of that shit will the Missoula County Democrats allow the public to see?
Regardless, it’ll be an interesting process to watch.