Duty, honor, country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying point to build courage when courage seems to fail, to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith, to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. -- General Douglas MacArthur, Thayer Award Speech, 1962
Earlier this year I attended a dinner hosted by former United States Army officers. One of the after-dinner speakers was Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, a former army officer. Montgomery graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1989 and led a tank platoon in the first Iraq War.
I’d never heard Montgomery speak in person before and his audience that night wasn’t a crowd that could easily be wooed and wowed with war stories and jokes. The majority of the audience had “been there and done that.” I was the guest of a retired general and Vietnam War veteran. We were one table over from a Medal of Honor recipient.
Montgomery spoke of one’s duty to country, responsibility to serve, live an honorable life -- and duty, honor, country. Everyone in the room was focused on him. They knew the importance of the words he spoke in these times when most elected officials are given less respect and trust than a Florida swampland salesman.
At the time, Montgomery had only been in office a short time. He came into office after a special election was held to replace ex-county attorney Andy Thomas who was recently disbarred for misconduct.
Since he took office, I’ve heard Montgomery is restoring trust in the county attorney’s office.
Weeks after the dinner speech, Montgomery was asked by Gov. Jan Brewer to lead an inquiry into how the Child Protective Services investigates reports of child abuse and neglect. Montgomery moved rapidly and his report called for significant changes in the investigative process and how CPS does business. Over the years there have been many calls for change at CPS. But this time Montgomery made the call and was able to get the Legislature to act and provide funding for change. Montgomery showed us his moral and professional courage when he grabbed onto this decades-old political hot potato. The former soldier took the lead and the people in political power from both political parties followed. His willingness to take on difficult and politically difficult matters of public interest was bold.
His boldness didn’t stop there.
Two weeks ago, it was reported by multiple media outlets Montgomery is talking publicly about the need to look beyond Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s immigration law, and to address immigration from a broader approach that includes the economic realities of the immigration issue and Arizona’s future. No doubt Montgomery’s call for discussion, intelligent analysis and long-term solutions would be considered blasphemy by the “build the wall” and “send them all back to Mexico” crowd -- a loud crowd that still wields considerable power in the Arizona Republican Party. As a Republican, Montgomery took on the party line with his call for change.
A brave move by a man who has shown he sees the big picture and isn’t afraid to lead even when it involves risk and upsetting the status quo.
For me, Montgomery is like a breath of fresh air.
For those of us who have become increasingly disillusioned with Arizona politics and the self-serving ways of too many elected officials, Montgomery offers a style of leadership that’s reminiscent of past great state leaders who did what was best for us and not for them.
The bipartisan level of support Montgomery enjoys can be seen in the lack of any Democratic challengers in the recent primary election where he garnered 258,464 votes, over 8,000 more votes than Sheriff Joe Arpaio received.
With his leadership, bipartisan influence and belief in duty, honor, country, Montgomery could be the change agent Arizona so desperately needs.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.