What does Bryan Montgomery see as the biggest challenge one year after taking on the job?
INDIO — One year ago this month, a new face, that of Bryan Montgomery, burst onto the scene to manage the Coachella Valley’s largest city. What does he think today, one year after taking over?
Montgomery replaced Mark Scott who had served as Indio’s City Manager since 2017.
Montgomery came to the City of Indio with nearly three decades of local government experience. Most of that time was spent as a City Manager. For the past 15 years, Montgomery was City Manager in the fast-growing Bay Area suburb of Oakley, California. Previously he was City Manager in Mesquite, Nevada and City Administrator in Rupert, Idaho. He has also held positions in city government in Alamogordo, New Mexico and Provo, Utah.
During the past year, Montgomery participated in hauling tires with Mayor Waymond Fermon at a neighborhood cleanup, volunteered with a city team at the FIND Food Bank, recognized some city employees at a City Council meeting in addition to his day-to-day running of the city.
Uken Report checked in with the city manager one year after he began his duties.
Uken Report (UR): How would you describe your first full year as Indio City Manager?
Bryan Montgomery (Montgomery): It has a very busy, but enjoyable year. I have worked to meet as many people as possible and to learn from their perspective and listen to their ideas. Indio is a vibrant and caring community that is full of great people – dedicated to making Indio even better. My goal has been to find where I can best fit in and contribute to the overall effort.
UR: What has been the biggest surprise about leading Indio, the one thing you did not expect when you took the job?
Montgomery: There are many moving parts to the city organization itself, but also a significant amount of coordination with other public agencies and organizations. My biggest surprise was the current condition of the electrical infrastructure. Having up-to-date, sound electrical infrastructure is important for safety, reliability, system redundancy and for economic development. I have spent a considerable amount of time on this very critical issue and I think we are close to be able to implement some solutions.
UR: A year ago you said, “Another challenge is addressing the State mandates and critical need for “attainable” housing.” What progress have you made on this front?
Montgomery: There are hundreds of “attainable” housing units approved and one large complex is now under construction, and more in the planning stages. Not only in Indio, but across the Valley and the country, we will see more and more multi-family housing developments to help address this need.
UR: You are fluent in Spanish and said that you consistently test a 4 out of 5 for speaking Spanish. The minimum for a Foreign Service Officer is a 3, but you don’t have “native” fluency (a 5). You said you understand just about everything and can say what you want to say in Spanish. How has that helped you connect with the Latino community in Indio?
Montgomery: I don’t have a native fluency but can communicate well and have enjoyed speaking in Spanish to hundreds of residents and a number of community groups. I believe that effort to reach out and to communicate in a language that is more comfortable for them has built a measure trust and credibility. These residents whom I’ve met know that they can talk directly to me, ask questions and share suggestions for improvement. It helps give them a voice and a comfort level that would not be as strong if I didn’t speak Spanish.
UR: Did you attend Coachella? Why or why not? If you attended, what were your impressions?
Montgomery: I did attend both weekends of Coachella and it was amazing to see the planning, coordination and execution of events that more than double the size of Indio during the Festival time. I was impressed with all involved, including the many City employees that are a part of the success of the Festivals, particularly our public safety team. I was able to see the efforts behind the scenes that are so critical to keeping all safe and enjoyable for attendees.
UR: What is your favorite Indio hangout? Why?
Montgomery: Other than home and City Hall (my other home), I really enjoy walking to the restaurants located near City Hall. It is great food, great company and also a great opportunity to meet other residents there.
UR: You were hired with a 3-1-1 vote and soon after said, I think a couple of the Councilmembers wanted to make a point, but all are very supportive now and are rooting for my success – all for the good of Indio. As Vice-Mayor Fermon stated, “We’re all wearing the same jersey now.” How would you describe your relationship with City Council today?
Montgomery: I sense a great deal of respect and trust between the City Council and me (including the City employee team that I help lead). The City Council is forward-moving and encouraging of all the activities that help Indio “take center stage” here in the Valley. The City Council has high expectations of me and the City team and we are striving hard to meet and exceed those expectations – all with the intent of making Indio even better.
UR: Of what program, policy, or actions are you most proud, the one that most bears your thumbprint?
Montgomery: Everything really is a team effort, and my thumbprint is alongside many others as we have worked to energize Indio. We have made significant strides in the Downtown, received tens of millions in grant funds, have developed a new, powerful branding, developed stronger relationships with other public agencies and non-profit organizations, held numerous neighborhood cleanups, and obtained support from our residents to extend our Measure X sales tax that will lead to tens of millions of dollars of road improvements, park improvements, new fire station, new Police Department buildings and other public facilities. There is much more, and Indio is on the move.
UR: One year after being on jog, what do you see as the single biggest challenge facing the city of Indio in the coming year?
Montgomery: I think the implementation of strategies to address the aging electrical infrastructure, as mentioned previously, is a big challenge that we will be addressing, and it will have a huge impact on the safety and economic viability of the community.
UR: Anything you would like to add?
Montgomery: I am just very grateful to be Indio’s City Manager. My wife and I love living in Indio and have made so many wonderful friends here. It is home and we are “all in” to help Indio’s success.
- Hauling tires with Waymond Fermon: Bryan Montgomery