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Duration:07:39
Uploaded:2011-02-21
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The big full interview with Mayor Engen, UNCUT!!! Except with LOTS OF CUTS!!! The total uncut interview was like 20 minutes, so that's never getting off the hard drive.

Thanks to Mayor Engen and his staff for setting this up, I had a great time.

Hank: Good morning, John.

John: Good morning, Hank.  It's lovely to be here once again this morning, it seems like we just talked yesterday morning.

H: It seems like we did this literally five minutes ago in which the microphone wasn't on.

J: Well, it's, y'know, time flies.  

H: This is Missoula's mayor, John Engen.  And I had a chance to talk to him, and I feel like if you have a chance to talk to your mayor, you should talk to your mayor.

J: Generally speaking, everyone should have a chance to talk to their mayor.  It's, you know--

H: But you've never lived in a very large town.

J: I have not.  Y'know, this is about local, y'know... Local government's kinda the front line, this is your opportunity really to interact.

H: Say I just, I just email your office and say that I want to talk to you.  That happens.

J: It does.

H: So, I'm gonna ask you a couple of hard-hitting questions.

J: Yes.

H: Um, below the belt...

J: Okay.

H: Do you have any pets?

J: We have a rescued labradoodle named Oatie, uh, we have a humane society cat named Moose, and, uh, we just lost our thirteen-year-old greyhound, my beloved Patches.

H: Oh, I have a greyhound.

J: Do you?

H: Yeah.

J: They're fantastic dogs.

H: She's a sweetie, she's pathetic.  Lemon is a great dog.

J: Lemon, that's great.

H: She loves to sleep.

J: Well that's, y'know, the saws, they're forty-five mile an hour couch potatoes.

H: Yes.  It is insane how much she does not want to do anything.

J: There's, yeah, Patches was what we call food-focused, which is really unusual in our family.

H: What did you do before you were mayor?  Jobs, from, you know, fourteen years old up?

J: Golfland which was a--

H: Golfland!

J: An indoor miniature golf course.

H: And here, that was here?

J: It was.

H: We lost Golfland.

J: Yeah, quite some time ago.

H: Has there been any applications for a Golfland, part deux?

J: No.  It was right for its time.

H: We just lost Quibble's, too.  I feel like we're lacking for family fun centers.

J: I didn't know that was...that's the maze that was a-- corn maze?

H: Go carts, Corn maze, arcade games, bouncy castles...

J: Generally I don't like to be around that much corn, and I am not allowed in bouncy things.  There's a restraining order.

H: There was an incident.

J: That door is closed to me I'm afraid. Golfland, Hansons famous ice cream store, where I scooped ice cream, made burgers, swabbed toilets, and then I worked for the local newspaper. I worked for the Missoulian for a long time. I worked there from the time I was 19 until the time I was about 35ish. 

H: So were you in college, did you go to college?

J: Yeah, I went to the University of Montana, got a degree in journalism, so I worked on the production side of the newspaper while I was in school, then when I graduated I got a job on the news-desk. And worked the copy desk for a long time. Then I wrote a column for a long time. I wrote a column from the time I was 17.

H: Wow

J: Yeah.

H: Wow, that seems unlikely for a 17 year old to get a column spot. 

J: Really low, really low standard.

H:That's a great thing to say about your former employer.

J: It's my theme, well, you know, lovely people, but at that time, you know there was a time, and I'm not sure it's completely changed, there was a time when newspapers were trying to figure out how to find new, young readers, to read the newspaper.

H: Mmm-hmm, yep.

J: So I wrote a humor column, and we endeavored to do that, yeah.

H:  You going to release that in a small book?

J: You know the old saw is that every journalist has a book in him, and that's where it should stay.

H: [Laughing] I feel the same way about myself. So how does mayoring compare with all of your other jobs?

J: Uh, best job I've ever had, love the job. Um, very challenging.

H: Yeah.

J: Just a, a fantastic education, a real opportunity to get things done. As mayor, I'm the chief executive, so I actually get to do stuff, as a full-time job, and I get to do stuff. And I get to put smart people together, it's very cool.

H: Favorite TV shows on the air right now?

J: Love Parks and Rec, for ideal reasons. Yeah.

H: Oh, so good. I almost asked you about that specifically, because that's like everybody's intro into local government now. As a mayor, what do you actually do? Just this, this is what you do, you just talk to people on couches?

J: Oh. I didn't think we'd get to that question. I am responsible for the day-to-day operations of the city of Missoula, we have about 500 full-time employees. You run kind of  a big business, in effect, so you're paying attention to all those things that go on every day, but then you're also serving a whole bunch of citizens, and they have a whole variety of needs.

H: You're basically the chief executive of a 500-person corporation that runs a city.

J: Which, yeah, sort of, yeah. Which I try not to think about too much, because it scares me. I know, right? Really. One of the cool things about Missoula is that somebody always wants to try to get something done. You always do your best to listen to who ever is in your office; sometimes they need love, sometimes they need tough love, but mostly they need an ear... 

H: Mmm, hmm, yep.

J: Folks are amazing.

H: Yeah, yeah I see some of that in the work that I do. A lot of people have just amazing ideas and they need just a tiny, a little bit of encouragement, a little bit of guidance, and it's really nice to be able to do that for people.

J: It's very cool. 

H: I'm a little bit famous everywhere I go, because of my work on YouTube - you are a lot famous, in only one place. What's that like?

J: When I'm especially dumpy, and getting groceries or a cup of coffee, uh...

H: In your sweatpants...

J: Yeah, which are enormous...

H: ...at 2:00 am...

J: ...yeah, and I mean, sometimes you do sort of want to... I just want to get a cup of coffee right now, but I signed up for this, so, you know, it's all part of the job, and I generally... I call it the "Mayor look," and, and yeah, you get that look, and, um, I generally like to say hello to people anyway, but I tend to do it even more now.

H: You were raised in a friendly place.

J: Yes, and part of my responsibility here is to make sure it stays friendly. The city is filled with do-gooders.

H: It kind of is.

J: Yeah.

H: Why isn't the rest of the country like that?

J: Don't know.

H: It's just, you live in the best - best town in America.

J: Yeah.

H: Okay, I'm glad we agree on that point. So what is, uh, what's the hardest part of being a mayor?

J: Um, when I can't fix something, when problems just don't appear to have resolution. When somebody is hurt or killed...

H: Mmm-hmm.

J: You know, all that. There's real - there's really serious human consequence to what we do. I sometimes tell folks that I have tremendous responsibility and very little control.

H: Mmm-hmm.

J: And that - that can be a little bit tough. I get my own firetruck.

H: Oh, I didn't know that!

J: Few people do.

H: Can you loan it out?

J: Oh, sure. We do a lot of prom night, in particular.

H: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh, I would imagine that's actually probably your primary income source.

J: Yeah.

H: Fire-truck rentals.

J: Yeah, it's all about new revenue streams.

H: I mean, most of the time, they're just sitting there.

J: Exactly.

H: So I mean if one's out on the town -

J: There is some expectation among the citizenry that we use our resources as efficiently as possible.

H: Right.

J: And there's nothing like a ladder truck on an April evening. Lady Gaga in the background.

H: Oh, man.

J: Yeah.

H: My wife would love me forever.

J: Yeah.

H: No, she wouldn't, she hates that. I think what I'm taking away from this interview is that -

J: Oh, there are takeaways?

H: Yeah, that we really need a family fun center with go-carts and miniature golf.

J: Yep.

H: Because we've lost that.

J: There is, I think, a danger in nostalgia.