Nugent Hands Over Mayoral Election to Hess After Chaotic City Council Meeting


Outside of Missoula’s City Council Chambers where the mayoral appointment occurred. Photo courtesy of Ila Bell

Ila Bell, Reporter

 “I don’t think that anybody intended the state law to have two guys standing in an alley at 10:30—trying to figure out what to do,” said Mike Nugent while conceding his vote to Jordan Hess for Missoula’s new mayor. On Sept. 12, the Missoula City Council held their election for the interim mayor position after Mayor John Engen passed away. A lengthy 22 rounds of voting and undisclosed recess discussions led the 5-hour meeting to a close, finally electing Hess to serve as the Missoula Mayor until the election next year.

The meeting began with public hearings from Missoulians who attended. Many spoke out in support of Hess along with many in support of candidate Nugent. Both Nugent and Hess were serving council members and worked alongside each other as Missoula representatives. 

About an hour and a half into the meeting, the voting process began. The voting proved inconclusive for many hours and several rounds of voting. A candidate must obtain seven of the 12 council members’ votes in order to be elected; if they do not receive all seven votes, a revote begins. Tired looks spread across the meeting room as the procedure dragged on with no decision on Missoula’s new mayor. 

Once the fourth hour came, the meeting took a 15-minute recess. Both Nugent and Hess left the room and weren’t seen in the meeting until over an hour later. Once the meeting had resumed Nugent began speaking by apologizing for the extended recess. Emotionally, Nugent spoke about his position as a candidate for the Mayor of Missoula. “I think the funny thing is, Jordan’s the damn reason I ran,” said Nugent, at this point appearing teary eyed. He explained his relation to Hess and the respect he has for him as well as the council.

 Nugent went on to criticize the process which took place that night, “I think that some people tonight have made a mockery of council, they’ve made a mockery of what Missoula can be, they’ve made a mockery of this process.” He then revealed how he and Hess had met to discuss the process and how to move forward in an alleyway behind the council building during the recess.

Council member Daniel Carlino commented on the matter, “We’re deciding on the mayor of Missoula here, it should not be decided in the alley of whichever council members get called back,” said Carlino. Carlino denounced the lack of transparency in the meeting and the decision between Nugent and Hess. 

The meeting ended with acknowledgement for all the council members as well as Hess and Nugent for the difficulty of the meeting. Councilwoman Gwen Jones added final comment with a toast to the late mayor John Engen and his work for Missoula and continuing his legacy. The meeting was adjourned at 11:36pm.