by Travis Mateer
The news broke yesterday that Mayor John Engen has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Anyone who has dealt with this kind of cancer is probably wondering why Engen is doing what he did after being forced to admit his alcoholism, which is NOT stepping down as Mayor.
Here’s Engen pivoting from disclosure to stubborn refusal in acknowledging the reality of what he’s facing (emphasis mine):
“This is not the health news anyone wants to receive,” Engen said, “but I suffer from optimism and have high hopes that treatment will extend my life so I can continue the service I love among talented, committed colleagues and the community. I’ve got a long list and hope to make my way through it.”
“I’m being very public about this personal news because I may have to step back occasionally from some optional duties that I’ve enjoyed over the years,” Engen said, “and my full calendar of appointments may get rearranged depending on treatment and my strength. I want folks to know I’m still very much at the helm, but if I am incapacitated and no longer able to meet the obligations of this job, I’ll step down.”
So, Engen is NOT stepping down. I hope he’s got ALL his enablers ready to help him in his time of need.
One key Engen enabler, Eran Pehan, is going to have a VERY challenging time navigating all her responsibilities, but I’m confident she’ll be up to the task. I say that having seen her manage the Poverello Center in 2011, when our director at the time, Ellie Hill (later Ellie Smith, and now Ellie Boldman) was demonstrating her inability to meet THOSE job obligations.
While it hasn’t been reported yet, Eran Pehan has a new job IN ADDITION to the job that was created for her at the end of 2020. Before we get to Pehan’s NEW job, let’s take a look at how the creation of the Department of Community Planning, Development and Innovation was reported:
In an effort to break down silos and improve efficiency, the city of Missoula on Wednesday realigned several departments to streamline everything from land use and planning to transportation.
In doing so, it established a new singular department dubbed Community Planning, Development and Innovation, and appointed Eran Pehan to serve as its new director.
“She’s demonstrated remarkable skills as a leader, a manager and a mentor,” Missoula Mayor John Engen said. “I believe that in this role, she’ll be able to help us put our rules and regulations in place to better align with our goals for increasing housing stock for everyone in our community.”
Last month I reached out to the communication director for Mayor Engen, Ginny Merriam, and she forwarded my inquiry about Pehan’s new job duties to my former supervisor herself to respond to. Here is that response:
Yes, Eran Pehan remains committed to her current position with the city, and that’s great news because Missoula is going to need ALL her skills and talents, which include experience working with low-functioning individuals who suffer from various personality disorders in a clinical setting (transferrable skills I bet she still uses in her political setting).
For the rest of us in Missoula, wondering what this diagnosis means for our bustling ZOOM town, the question should be this: WHO is going to determine when Mayor John Engen is no longer capable of executing the duties of his office?
Because John Engen is a self-admitted alcoholic, I don’t think he has the personal insight to identify what he can handle, and what he can’t. So WHO is going to play that role for this Mayor with a terminal diagnosis?
That’s a legitimate question, and one I don’t mind asking less than 24 hours after this diagnosis was made public.