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Quick and Dirty

Homecoming

By Van Smith | Posted 8/17/2005

This past February, a blast from the past returned to city government, with little fanfare and no media attention: Dave Montgomery, who left as deputy director of the Department of Public Works in the fall of 1999, when then-City Councilman Martin O’Malley won a tough mayoral race in part by promising to clean house. Montgomery’s wagon had long been hitched to then-DPW director George Balog, and O’Malley had promised voters that, if elected, he’d can Balog, who’d been investigated (but never prosecuted) for allegedly being in bed with politically connected contractors. With Balog on the way out, Montgomery headed to Atlanta, where he managed a star-crossed private contract running that city’s water and sewer systems. After a few more years as an Atlanta-based engineering entrepreneur, Montgomery is back in Baltimore—but in a lower-level position in the city’s Department of Transportation.

“At the end of 2004,” Montgomery explained in a recent phone interview, “I decided to move back to Baltimore, quietly, and in a low-level job.” Although in June 2004 he’d been offered a position heading up Washington, D.C.’s DPW, he declined, because he determined that “it wasn’t a good fit.” So, back to Baltimore, where he started out as chief of conduits for the city’s DOT, and in July he took over the DOT’s Traffic Division, which handles the city’s traffic signals, signs, and street marking. Montgomery, 49, says he’s making “a little less than $40 an hour, about 2,000 hours a year.” That’s less than the six-figure salary he earned under Balog, under whom he had department-wide duties. But, Montgomery says “it’s not the money” that matters to him. These days, his priorities are family first, then the job.

“I just enjoy being a civil servant,” he says. “I bring 30 years of institutional knowledge” about city government to the job.

“I’m older, wiser, and mature now,” he insists, noting that he enjoys the “more detailed, hands-on perspective” of his current position, in which his main goal is to reduce congestion on city streets. He predicts that by this time next year—in the middle of the gubernatorial elections, which O’Malley hopes to win—his efforts will pay off and make “the mayor and the department look good.” It’s a good guess that the mayor expects no less from an old hand like Montgomery.

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