For nearly a decade, Dan LaMontagne has worked for Chatham County, first as its Solid Waste Director, then Environmental Quality Director, then Public Works Director, and then Assistant County …
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For nearly a decade, Dan LaMontagne has worked for Chatham County, first as its Solid Waste Director, then Environmental Quality Director, then Public Works Director, and then Assistant County Manager. With each promotion, he noted, he continued to perform duties from the previous position.
“Each time, Charlie [Horne, Paschal’s predecessor] would say, ‘Well you can just do the other stuff too, right?’ and I’d say, ‘Sure I can,” LaMontagne said.
The Chatham County Board of Commissioners officially selected LaMontagne for the position of County Manager on Monday, a role he has been performing as interim since October 1, 2018, after the retirement of Renee Paschal.
The motion to select LaMontagne during the Board of Commissioners meeting was made by Commissioner Jim Crawford.
“It is with great pleasure that I would like to put in the form of a motion that we make formal the relationship that the county has with our current county manager Dan LaMontagne,” Crawford said. “I believe his record and the way that he’s handled the job so far speaks for itself. So I’m very pleased to do this at this time.”
Commissioner Walter Petty, who was unable to make the meeting, submitted a written statement to be read into the record.
“I am confident in the decision made to select Dan to this position,” Petty wrote. “I have had the opportunity to watch him perform his duty over the last 10 years as a commissioner. He has had responsibilities in several departments and has led them with impressive management skills. His track record clearly speaks to his leadership skills. Additionally, I’d like to publicly thank Dan for his dedication and service to the citizens of Chatham County, and I look forward to your leadership as county manager.”
LaMontagne’s success was born from hard work and perseverance, though it’s a journey he may not have expected. He admits that when he attended UNCW after high school, working was not necessarily his first thought.
“I got an ‘A’ in sailboarding,” he said. “It’s the only ‘A’ I got. I ended up dropping out before they kicked me out for my grades.”
After that, LaMontagne worked — a lot — at jobs that were decidedly physical in nature.
“I did nothing but manual labor,” LaMontagne said.
He worked as a roofer, in a warehouse (becoming warehouse manager), and eventually worked in hazardous waste disposal and emergency response, deploying for train and truck wrecks and cleaning up hazardous waste.
“You know those guys in the moon suits?” LaMontagne asked. “Yeah, that was me.”
After working so hard for many years, LaMontagne decided it was time to go back to school, deciding he wanted to earn an engineering degree from N.C. State.
“They laughed at me,” he said, thinking about his previous academic record. “So I asked them what do I need to do to get in. I went to Wake Tech for two quarters and got straight A’s.”
N.C. State then asked LaMontagne to take Calculus I & II during two summer sessions, two hard classes during a truncated summer semester. He got straight A’s in those as well, finally earning a spot in N.C. State’s prestigious engineering program. He would graduate Magma Cum Laude in only three and a half years, and now has his “PE” designation — that of Professional Engineer.
“If I hadn’t been dedicated and committed to what I wanted to do, I never would have succeeded,” he said.
With his environmental engineering degree, LaMontagne first worked with a private engineering firm, then moved to N.C. DENR’s Division of Waste Management. In three years he was promoted three times. He eventually moved to positions at other local governments and even ran a landfill.
“I was on an excavator when I accepted the job at Chatham County,” LaMontagne said.
LaMontagne says he’s not afraid to put in the work. During his time at Chatham County, he built departments, negotiated agreements, and managed a variety of responsibilities. At one point, he had two different offices because of the diversity of his responsibilities required management at different locations.
“Being a leader is getting and keeping good people,” he said. “I have built strong departments and trained really good department heads. I’m proud of what I’ve done here.”
LaMontagne is looking forward to his new position and continuing to work with his staff and Chatham County leadership.
“I think it’s the challenge,” he said. “I like being challenged. I like the people. We have a really talented staff. They’ve been great to work with. We’re like family.”
His goals include “maintaining the talented staff that we have, continue to build relationships in the region,” including municipalities in Chatham as well as the surrounding counties.
“I want to maintain the county’s rural character while still experiencing the urban growth,” LaMontagne said. “It’s a big part of the comprehensive plan, the policy developed by my board and the residents. It’s my guiding principle.”