Missoula’s City Club hosted a debate on Monday between incumbent Mayor John Engen and his challenger Lisa Triepke at the Doubletree Hotel before a capacity audience of over 250.

The moderator was long-time Public Radio newswoman Sally Mauk, who asked both candidates questions ranging from federal government policies and their effect on the city, to affordable housing. Mauk, however, drew some grumbling from the audience with her first question as she asked which presidential candidate the two opponents voted for last November.

Triepke was the first to answer by refusing to answer, while claiming that voters have a right to privacy about their choice, especially during a nonpartisan election.

Engen, however, stated plainly that he voted for not just Hillary Clinton in this election, but for Barack Obama twice and that he has always voted the Democrat ticket.

Engen was at his jovial best while answering a question about ‘comforting’ those who may be disappointed in him being reelected, or in Triepke’s case, being elected.

“I’ve had some experience with some people bitterly disappointed in my election,” he said to laughter from the crowd. “However, I recognize that I’m here to serve everyone and while we may not agree, we have a great system for hearing anyone who disagrees. I keep my door open to hear people out.”

Triepke made a point of stating that she wanted to take the high road and keep the race clean.

“I don’t read the comments on social media,” she said. “The level of ugliness and ignorance out there astounds me because I think we’re all here to make Missoula a better place and to come together.”

Mauk brought up the fact that the Mountain Water takeover was not put forward to a vote of the city residents. Mayor Engen said it was evident to him that the issue did not have to go before the voters.

“There are issues of critical importance to the community, and we were elected to lead, and when those issues are self-evident to me in the case of the acquisition of the water company, it was a fundamental community asset, the stuff of life, there wasn’t much question to me whether that should have been taken to a public vote," said Engen.

Triepke said she believed that not enough attention was paid to the citizens of Missoula regarding the Mountain Water acquisition.

“When your taxes are significantly impacted and a decision is being made that is going to affect taxes, I believe there should be a point at which the voters should have a chance to weigh in on the subject.”

Following the questions from Sally Mauk, City Club asked the attendees to come up with questions of their own for the two candidates.

The entire debate is captured on the above You Tube video.

Elections Administrator Rebecca Connors said that ballots for the municipal election are being mailed on Wednesday, October 18, and if city residents have not received their ballots by Friday, they should contact the elections office at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.


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