Mayor Engen Has Relied On The Disarming Utility Of Fat Jokes Since High School

by Travis Mateer

Engen working on his next fat joke

I had no idea, until reading this Harmon’s Histories piece, that Missoula’s longest serving Mayor, John Engen, has been relying on the disarming utility of fat jokes since high school. This style of self-deprecating humor was developed by Engen as he wrote for his high school newspaper (the Hellgate Lance), then his University newspaper (the Kaimin), then the Missoulian.

Here’s Harmon on the reporting style of John Engen:

Whether it was during his years at the Missoulian, UM’s Kaimin, or all the way back to the Hellgate Lance (the student newspaper at Missoula’s Hellgate High School), John always made me laugh.

Much of his humor was self-deprecating, dealing with his weight.

Now that Mayor Engen has started a new and quite effective weight loss program, how are his enablers responding? Will they rise to the occasion during Engen’s time of need? I’m looking at you, Gwen!

Under city regulations, Gwen Jones would step in as mayor on a temporary basis if Engen were to take a leave of absence. Jones represents Ward 3 and was elected council president earlier this year.

“There are different levels of stepping in. Right now, it’s just to support him by taking anything off his plate that we’re able to,” Jones said Wednesday evening. “With treatments, if he’s either out of town or not up to working in person, I can easily cover anything that needs to be covered.”

Ginny Merriam, the city’s communications director, said the City Council president has in the past stepped in to serve as mayor on a temporary basis. Former council president Marilyn Marler did so roughly five years ago when Engen was recovering from illness.

I bolded the part where Martin “Gomer” Kidston does his pal Engen a solid by describing the alcoholism Engen disappeared for a month to get treatment for as simply an “illness”. What actually happened is Engen’s problem with alcohol abuse got so fucking bad, an intervention happened, the details of which were never explicitly shared with the voting public. Instead we got shit like this:

After weeks of vague explanations for Mayor John Engen’s disappearance from Missoula City Hall, Engen is back in the office and is admitting his absence was due to treatment for alcoholism.

The public wasn’t the only party left out of the loop on why the mayor was not at work, according to city councilman Harlan Wells, even the city council was not informed about the the cause of the absence as Marilyn Marler took over as interim mayor.

Yep, even City Council members were kept in the dark as Engen sought treatment, then immediately pivoted to running for his FOURTH term as Mayor.

Now, during Engen’s FIFTH term, we get an Engen sycophant ready to exploit this medical diagnosis for political points. Nice.

“I don’t know that we’ll all vote unanimously on things, but (council) is a good group of people. Given the seriousness of the situation and how important the mayor is to this community, I imagine everyone on this council understands how important it is to work together. It’s our job to keep the city running and be a functional council. I think we are a functional council, and everyone understands how important it is to remain functional,” Jones said.

I like how Gwen Jones uses the word FUNCTIONAL three times in this quote. It’s very inspiring and totally instills confidence that our lovely Council will be able to get things done as Mayor Engen refuses to acknowledge reality.

Here’s an example of how our FUNCTIONAL City Council will keep their focus on the important things, like cramming 19 units of housing into a plot of land despite the outcries of the neighborhood and the lack of street infrastructure to accommodate this density:

“I feel like we’re putting the cart before the horse. Putting a bunch of new homes on a road that can’t handle the traffic is a concern. I wouldn’t want to live on River Road right now,” said newly elected council member Kristen Jordan. “This is a developer trying to make as much money as possible on a piece of land. I won’t be approving this.”

Members of the City Council acknowledged the deficiencies on River Road, but agreed that Missoula’s housing needs rose about it. River Road is scheduled for improvements, but no timeline has been given.

Yes, this lack of unanimous voting for the density-loving, sardine-can master planners is quite disappointing, especially now that the Mayor has cancer. If only Kristen Jordan understood that, since Engen is sick, everyone should just rally behind him and give him EVERYTHING he wants for our bustling community.

Since Jordan is new, I’m going to help her out by showing her how Council rallied behind Engen last July when he kept nodding off during a City Council meeting.

Missoula Mayor John Engen appeared groggy and disengaged during Monday night’s City Council meeting, something out of character for the typically acute city leader.

At times, his articulation was hard to follow and he appeared to nod off at several points. One hour and 20 minutes into the meeting, he apologized, saying he’d had a long day – most of which he spent testifying in court.

When faced with this Mayoral problem, here’s how Engen’s helpful enablers rallied to his side, making excuses and apologies for GREAT LEADER:

At times, other council members helped keep the meeting on track. At one point, council member Gwen Jones offered to read a second proclamation after the mayor struggled to read the first off his phone.

Other council members observed the mayor’s grogginess on Monday night.

“I think he is exhausted,” Jones told the Missoula Current. “I know he had a doozy of a day.”

“He had a beyond exhausting day coupled with caring for his mom, heat and smoke,” said council president Bryan von Lossberg. “I should have chaired (the meeting) to help him out.”

It’s going to be very important for our Council peeps to help out Mayor Engen in the months to come. For me, since I can’t envision a future without our GREAT LEADER, I’m going to share a piece of predictive fiction I wrote in the hopes that the future I see may come to pass.

I’ll post that little scrap of narrative on Friday, so stay tuned.

And thanks for reading!

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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