FOR WARREN MONTGOMERY, balance is at the heart of his life as a public servant. “My driving force is a hunger for justice, but that also needs to be tempered by mercy. The Beatitudes in Matthew 5:6, explain the relationship by stating both, ‘Blessed are the merciful,’ and ‘Blessed are those who thirst after justice.’ The goal is not merely to have trials or to convict, but to weigh what’s best for the community and the individual. My appreciation for that balance came to mean even more after taking my oath of office.”
Montgomery built upon many interests and talents to win the position of District Attorney for St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. He describes a wonderful childhood with strong role models: his businessman father, now 91, and his mother, a nurse. An Economics degree combined with an understanding of language and a nod from Mom regarding his arguing ability, led to LSU Law School.
After graduation, Montgomery volunteered on the Reagan campaign in 1979 and remained in Washington, D.C. as a situation room analyst. “We monitored news 24/7 to prepare reports for senior management. I learned organization, leadership and decision making.” From there, Montgomery became a Department of Labor legislative liaison. “It was great learning the legislative process, but after the administration accomplished tax cuts and laid out future success, the situation descended into partisan politics, which held no interest for me.”
In 1983, Montgomery returned to New Orleans to further his career while building a family. “It was an exciting time. I used analytical and persuasive talents at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and enjoyed “wearing the white hat” doing what you think is correct and good. And, I met my wife, Valarie, through a Christian singles group. She’s been through this journey with me since then, working as a flight attendant with time off to raise our five children—Daniel, Alison, Jenny, Kirstie and the youngest, Elijah. We chose St. Tammany to raise our kids in the country so they could run, play, explore and get a great education.”
Montgomery’s next endeavor gave insight into local politics. While working as Congressman Bob Livingston’s District Manager, he ran the local office while Livingston resided in Washington D.C. “I met Sam Caruso, Sr. at this time, who strengthened the lesson that government service is a good thing, but politicizing every issue is a bad thing. I focus on meeting challenges and solving them while disregarding politics as much as possible. If public service is a ship navigating through currents and winds, politics is the waves. You can’t let the waves push you off the path. It’s important to stay the course and not be manipulated or influenced by politics.”
An international, family business venture then led Montgomery to relocate to Puerto Rico for five years. “It was an essential experience where I supervised 100 employees, grew personally as a businessman and gained an appreciation for a different life view. My family didn’t have total control of the company, so I worked in hostile environments at times. It was good training for the hostile political machine I’d face on my first run for D.A.”
Montgomery says winning that election as a political outsider resulted in misunderstanding and additional challenges. “Some D.A. employees resigned before I even started, thinking I would automatically fire them. While some were let go after the first week, beyond that, I evaluated everyone based on job performance without regard to their political support. Doing so depoliticized the office helping me gain the staff’s respect.”
Despite the rigors of reshaping the department to his vision, Montgomery continues to make family life a priority and maintains a strong set of values at home. He says his beliefs and experience regarding work/life balance caused Montgomery to establish a generous maternity leave policy resulting in a baby boom at the D.A.’s office. He also shares the family mission statement which includes loving God, creating a home haven, setting and achieving goals, creating special family time, and an honor code which decries cheating, lying and stealing.
Five years into the job, Montgomery is eager to continue. “I’m making a positive difference, and I don’t want the corrupt influences of the past to re-establish themselves. My goal is to have the best D.A. office in the state and show that statistically. We’ve reduced the time from arrest to adjudication, reduced average age of cases pending trials, maintained a high felony arrests to convictions rate, eliminated the case backlog, converted a high dismissal rate to a high convictions rate, and seen a dramatic increase in domestic violence convictions—all while reducing operating costs.”
As a testament to his successful balancing act, Montgomery shares two important upcoming goals. “The plan for my second term is to have one of the best D.A. offices in the country from a performance standpoint. And, as in years past, I’m looking forward to Father’s Day. It’s a big deal. All the kids come in, we barbecue in the back yard and just enjoy each other’s company.”
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