Mayor John Engen will be out of the office “several weeks” for undisclosed medical reasons, according to the city’s communications director.

Director Ginny Merriam said Wednesday he’s been out of the office since Tuesday of last week and couldn’t say how long it would be until he returned.

“We don’t know,” Merriam said. “You never know.”

She wouldn’t confirm what the medical reasons were, or whether it was an expected absence.

Engen had bariatric weight-loss surgery a little over a year ago.

"I expect this surgery to give me a healthier life,” he said at the time. “I’m 50 years old, and I’ve struggled to keep my weight down all my life. I want to be healthy because I love Missoula, my job, my family and friends, and my life.”

City Council President Marilyn Marler stepped in as acting mayor last Wednesday, Merriam said, per the city charter.

In article 2.8.2, the charter says “in the absence of the mayor, or in the event the Mayor is unable to discharge the duties of the office of Mayor, the City Council President shall serve as Acting Mayor.”

“I’ll be doing both,” Marler said. “Fortunately there’s not a lot on the mayor’s calendar right now. It’s a good time for him to take some time off for medical reasons.” 

She met with the mayor’s staff Monday to figure out what she could expect in the coming weeks, most of which will involve signing contracts, approving time cards and attending council meetings.

Marler has stepped in as acting mayor before, she said, but it was just for a day or two while Engen was traveling.

Marler works for the University of Montana’s division of biological sciences as a natural areas manager, a job which Merriam said she’ll have to work around to manage mayoral duties.

Merriam said her office didn’t feel it was important to tell the public about Engen’s leave of absence, saying Marler probably would have mentioned it in City Council, but there wasn’t a meeting this week.

“He may decide that when he’s back in the office, he’ll talk about his health,” she said. “To the public there’s not going to be any noticeable difference in how the city runs.”

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