Paul Montague, formerly a leader at the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and executive director of Identity Clark County, launched a last-minute bid to join the Vancouver City Council.
He had been mulling a run for a while, Montague told The Columbian, but the decision to pull the trigger was pretty spontaneous.
He threw himself into the crowded race for Position 6, currently held by Bill Turlay, who’s not seeking re-election. The wide-open primary for the seat has seven candidates, with Montague the last to file before last week’s deadline to appear on the August ballot.
“I’ve always had an interest in politics, and I’ve always had an interest in being of service. The short version is, this is the way that I can continue to serve my community,” Montague said.
Montague grew up in North Carolina. In 1993, his telecommunications job transferred him to the Pacific Northwest. He hopped between a few different firms for about a decade before the dot-com bubble burst and he was laid off.
“Me and 300,000 of my nearest and dearest co-workers were given our pink slips,” Montague said. “It was a good career. The hard part was that I had to pretty much start over.”
He started over with the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, where he worked as membership services director. He would go on to work as executive director of Identity Clark County, a coalition of local businesses, and eventually lead the Battle Ground Chamber of Commerce before starting the tax preparation company he currently runs.
“Over the past 13 years, really since I started working for the Vancouver Chamber in 2005, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to participate and get involved with various nonprofits and other groups and activities,” Montague said.
“Growing up in North Carolina, it really was about, how do you give your time, your talent and your treasure back to the communities that nurture us?”
Montague is running on his relationship to the business community. Attracting high-paying jobs to Vancouver — and creating an environment where they can thrive — is his top priority, he said.
“God, it’s critical. We need to continue to try and attract family-wage, living-wage jobs to our area,” Montague said. “How do we develop our workforce to support those employers that are going to provide those kinds of jobs?”
Investment in public infrastructure is going to make or break that goal, he said.
“I believe our infrastructure, our roads, the bridge, the Columbia River Crossing as a starting point, are exceedingly important to the economic future of our community,” he said. “We’ve got a really great community, a wonderful location, great geography and a lot of great history. How do we build on that?”
Montague also touched on A Stronger Vancouver, the sweeping $30 million-per-year draft plan to raise taxes and fees across a spectrum of businesses and residents to better support city operations, such as parks and emergency services.
He’s generally supportive of the proposal, but he opposes one piece: reinstating a city business and occupation tax, after 17 years of getting by without one.
“I’m not a fan of B&O taxes from a business perspective,” Montague said. “But I feel that business needs to pay a piece of (the Stronger Vancouver plan), and it’s just got to be something that’s fair all around.”
In his last-minute entry to the race, Montague joins six other candidates seeking the most competitive seat in Clark County. The race includes relative political newcomers — a teacher and a pastor — and tested local politicians alike.
Montague has tentative plans to formally launch his campaign with an event in the second week of June, he said.
“I consider politics the world’s greatest spectator sport. It’s always interesting. You’ll never be able to totally predict the outcome, and it gets everybody involved,” he said.