Bryan H. Montgomery (BA ’92, MPA ’94) loves local government—so much, in fact, that he has been going to Mexico to lead a movement toward more effective governance. But where does this passion come from? Montgomery is the city manager of Oakley, California.
Most people are aware of local elected positions, like the mayor and the city council. However, many cities also have a city manager, the manager of day-to-day affairs. “The City Council is similar to a business’s elected board of directors. The board then hires a CEO to run the business on behalf of the board. As city manager, I am effectively the CEO of Oakley,” Montgomery says.
Montgomery explains, “I represent the city’s departments to the city council. The city council gives me direction, and then we implement it through the city’s departments.”
Montgomery’s preparation came from the George Romney Institute of Public Management. “There is no program at BYU that better represents, ‘Enter to Learn; Go Forth to Serve’ than the MPA program,” he says. “I don’t even call my job work—it’s service. I get to do what I love every day.”
Montgomery compares being a city manager to mowing a yard: before the job, there might be some uneven growth and nothing looks organized. The mowing can be difficult work. But at the end of the day, when the yard is clean and perfect, there is an overwhelming satisfaction with the job. “When you make something better, whether it is helping a neighborhood feel safe, or helping senior citizens have a place to come together, or building a park, there is joy from making an impact,” he says.
Over the past last 15 years, Montgomery has taken this passion international, travelling to Mexico and other parts of Latin America with the International City/County Management Association.
“In Mexico, most cities are ‘strong-mayor,’ meaning the elected mayor is the CEO of the city. We go to Mexico and help them understand that professional management, rather than just politics, better serves the residents and communities. The city hires a manager who handles the day-to-day operations and runs the million dollar business that is a city,” Montgomery says.
Montgomery presented on the strength of the city manager in San Luis Potosí, Mexico in August 2015. After his work, a bill was introduced in the State of San Luis Potosí Congress to authorize the creation of municipal administrators. This issue has never been so seriously considered and led the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance to award Montgomery the 2015 Volunteer of the Year Service Award.
At the end of the day, Montgomery reflects on an old quote: “I said somebody should do something about that; then I realized, I am somebody.”
“My hope is that everyone realizes that they are somebody,” he says. “Local problems are solved by community members working with us. Go about doing good things in your community.”
—Collin T. Mathias ('16)