Monday—the first day candidates could file to run in local elections—marked the beginning of what promises to be an interesting race for mayor. A full third of City Council—John Engen, Lou Ann Crowley, Jerry Ballas and Clayton Floyd—is in the running. And Bob Lovegrove, a current alderman and former Missoula mayor, has said he’s thinking about running, too. And you don’t need to see their press releases to know they’re running. Just tune in to the weekly City Council meetings on MCAT and see who punctuates the discussion with expository speeches about what’s good for the city and its residents, each trying to outdo the others with their thoughtfulness about the issues, their knack for compromise and foresight. Coincidence? We think not.
Besides the insiders, Jim Edwards, owner of Pattee Creek Market (formerly Bi-Lo Foods), has tossed his hat in the ring, promising “common sense,” “customer service” and “fiscal responsibility.” And Geoff Badenoch, who toiled at the Missoula Redevelopment Agency for 21 years and now works for the Intermountain Development Company, told the Indy Tuesday that he’s still weighing a run.
Regardless of who else joins the race by the June 30 filing deadline, there are already plenty of ingredients for a contentious race. As Council members seek to separate themselves from the pack, the hot-button issues are sure to get even hotter, and growth—surprise—promises to be the big one. One twist to note is Ballas’ ongoing lawsuit against the city, which he filed in 2003 over his neighbors’ attempts to build a second house where only one had stood before. In 2000, shortly after joining Council, Ballas—along with eight other members—voted to allow the boundary line adjustments he’s now protesting. Ballas told the Independent the vote was made on assurances by city staff that the “minor adjustments and changes wouldn’t have a significant effect. In reality, it has had a dramatic effect.” Who knows whether the case will be resolved by the November elections, but the prospect of having a chief who’s suing his own city certainly adds spice to the race.
The mayor’s race aside, Council is facing an overhaul, with six seats eligible for turnover. On Monday, John Couch (Ward 2), Cass Chinske (Ward 1) and Lee Clemmensen (Ward 3) all filed to run, as did Ward 2’s Myrt Charney, who currently represents Ward 4, but plans to move over the summer.) Add to this the departure of Mayor Mike Kadas, who’s been head honcho for more than eight years, and Janet Stevens, who’s been the chief administrative officer for more than nine years (and involved in local politics for 27 years), and it’s clear that the new year will hold plenty of…challenges.