The couple craved the coast
by The Press and Standard | January 4, 2019 5:00 pm
Last Updated: January 2, 2019 at 8:59 am
Zachary Montgomery brings over two decades of experience in planning to Colleton County Planning and Development Department.
Montgomery took over leadership of the county planning department on Nov. 26 from Philip Slayter, who decided on an early retirement.
Montgomery attended junior college at New Mexico Military Institute and then graduated from New Mexico State and the University of Phoenix.
After graduation, he worked in construction management before beginning his planning career in Roswell, N.M.
“They felt my experience in building and construction management and being a consultant where I designed projects for contractors was the best experience for the position,” Montgomery said.
He spent nine years in New Mexico. “Then I married my college sweetheart and moved to Georgia to be with her.”
He went to work in Dalton, Ga., and helped create its metropolitan planning organization.
Next stop on his career path was Buffalo, Wyoming. “I worked there for three-and-one-half years. Then we realized it was a little too cold for our taste, so we went to the other extreme and took a great job opportunity in Cocoa Beach, Fla.”
Montgomery and his wife Ginger spent three-and-a-half years there, “Then we started missing the kids and grandkids, so we moved back to the Atlanta area.” The couple has five children and seven grandchildren. “No great grandkids yet, but I am sure that is not too far down the road,” he added.
Back in the Atlanta area, he became director of development services for Newton County.
“Then I came here,” Montgomery said. “My wife and I have always loved the Savannah area, so we just started looking up and down the coast. We wanted something near the ocean — our family loves to come and visit when we are located by the ocean.”
His early days heading the county’s planning office have been spent getting to know Colleton County and its residents. “I think the people here are fantastic.” Montgomery said. “I have met people in different communities, a lot of the movers and shakers. I’ve met about 150 people.
“I hope they don’t expect me to remember their names at the beginning,” he offered with a smile.
Establishing those relationships, he explained, are a major facet of his work as county’s Planning and Development Director.
“I am here to help businesses and residents get what they want without breaking the code,” Montgomery said.
“Colleton County has a very good set of codes.” He attributes that to Slayter and Kevin Griffin, who had served as planning director for the county before he moved into county administration and eventually returned to Colleton County as county administrator.
“They undertook a great deal of the changes that brought us to where we are now,” Montgomery offered.
His first major task will be working on the county’s next Comprehensive Plan, a planning document that looks 10 years into the future of how Colleton County grows.
The county already started the process before Montgomery arrived, hiring the consulting firm of Benchmark Planning to write the next plan that will take the county to 2030.
“I had offered to write it in-house but everything was already in the works,” Montgomery.
The Colleton County Comprehensive Plan will be the seventh he has worked on in his career. In two of those, he worked with a consultant; the other four he wrote in-house.
“I’m proud to say the comprehensive plan I did in Florida for Cocoa Beach won the award of excellence for all Florida cities in 2016,” he said. He has yet to relocate that award to his new office.
Although he won’t be writing the county’s comprehensive plan, Montgomery and his staff will still have to provide information, maps and data to Benchmark, edit and review what they write and attend all the public meetings and workshops where the draft plan will be considered.
Key to creating the plan, Montgomery said is “getting input from the stakeholders and residents to find out what they want to see Colleton County look like in 10 years.”