I am just getting to know Tony LeMon a little better now that he is one of District Attorney Warren Montgomery’s assistant DA’s.
But after showing up on Sunday night to the Castine Center in Mandeville, where the first official fundraiser to raise money for Montgomery’s re-election campaign in three years was held, I think I know LeMon a little better. All it took was one look oatthe “Round Up for Warren Montgomery” that he organized.
Montgomery was elected district attorney three years ago in what I still call one of the biggest election shockers in St. Tammany history.
I can remember when it was announced that 30-year D.A. Walter Reed wasn’t going to run for re-election in 2014. Suddenly the field of candidates for D.A. changed dramatically with three quality entries lining up. I knew all of them—lawyer Alan Black, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor and lawyer Roy Burns.
But when this fellow named Warren Montgomery announced he was also going to run for D.A. I was like a lot of people who said, “Warren who?”
Montgomery is the first one to agree he was pretty unfamiliar to the masses of St. Tammany Parish when he decided to run for D.A. But as I later learned, he was urged to do so by LeMon and a few others who knew him personally and thought the character and ethics of the man made him perfect.
You know the rest of the story. Montgomery stunned most election experts by finishing second to Trainor in the primary, then he grabbed 52 percent of the vote in the runoff to become the new D.A. in the 22nd Judicial District Court.
Fast forward to Sunday night when I decided to go to the fundraiser to see what kind of support was there. As I walked towards the front door of the Castine Center I heard the sound of small farm animals. Sure enough, the “Round Up for Warren Montgomery” that LeMon had contrived had live animals outside and inside. There were even miniature ponies being walked around inside the center.
When I saw the extent LeMon went to for the “Round Up” I must say I was quite impressed. This was not a small, quickly thrown together fundraiser and showed what LeMon thinks of his boss. He clearly wants him to win another term.
Montgomery greeted well-wishers and supporters at the front door in his cowboy hat, western shirt, jeans and boots. And even though I never read all the way to the bottom of the invitation it had apparently encouraged others to show up with the western look. Many did just that with a few going, well, maybe too far.
Seriously, it was all in good fun and the night proved to be an incredible success for Montgomery, who was good enough to allow me to hang out with him for an hour at the front door to get my interview on today’s front page. It took an hour to do since our D.A. barely got more than 30 seconds at a time to talk to me between hundreds of people steadily pouring through the front doors.
Montgomery is a unique politician—a word he probably hates. He considers himself a public servant in every sense of the word and like most politicians, probably dislikes that part of the job more than anything.
During three years he has done a lot of positive things to change the image of the district attorney’s office. But truthfully, he has also upset a number of people for his determined stand on certain issues.
His differences with Parish President Pat Brister have been well documented on several issues, he has been in the midst of a major difference of opinion with the Parish Council on more than one matter, and he has sought state opinions for decisions made by parish officials.
While I think the vast majority of the parish appreciates what he has done and the change he has brought, the truth is that not everybody does.
As for me, I have great respect for him. In all my years of covering St. Tammany news I have never interviewed any public official who is so unafraid to discuss his Christianity and relationship with God in regard to the important decisions he is making.
Montgomery is one-of-a-kind who is truly following his beliefs and conscience in making all the decisions he must make. One day we discussed how that works with considering the death penalty—now there is a decision most of us would never want to be responsible for.
The fundraiser was a huge success and it’s clear many people want to be a friend to Montgomery for, as he said, a variety of reasons. But I don’t see how you can’t respect the man for the way he has approached the job, and I do agree with LeMon in noting that our new D.A. has positively changed the image of that office from the past.
As for the “Round Up,” it was clear Montgomery had some fun with it.
“I don’t often wear a cowboy hat,” he answered to my question. “Actually almost never. But hey, don’t print that, I don’t want to lose the cowboy vote.”
Kevin Chiri can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.