From college to county: Jaques Montgomery makes his way in the county Assessor's Office

Jaques Montgomery remembers the first few times he went out to appraise a house on his own. He rehearsed what he was going to say to the homeowner over and over in his mind. He had seen how it was done countless times before when he accompanied his mentors out in the field.

Still, he was nervous.

"It's nerve-wracking, because honestly, you don't know how they're going to perceive you at the door," says Montgomery recalling those early days.

It was summer 2014, he had just graduated from Warner Pacific College and was interning at the Division of Assessment, Recording and Taxation (DART)for the second time. He was 22.

"You want to get your speech right and of course, it doesn't go as planned but you have to get over the idea that it's about you," he says. "It's about getting the information to taxpayers and making sure that the county records are right."

Today he is a fully-licensed residential property appraiser with the county. But his goal remains the same as it did during his intern days: making sure his appraisals are as accurate as possible.

An appraiser such as Montgomery might visit someone's property for a number of reasons, such as to verify the terms of a recent house sale; update the characteristics of a property; or appraise new construction, remodels and additions to a house.

But appraisers - and the services they provide - are not always met with a warm reception.

"Not everyone is welcoming to the county," says Montgomery. "A lot of people have a misconception that all we do is add tax value [to a property]. That's the preconceived notion. I'm already coming in as the bad guy."

Montgomery says it's not unusual for homeowners to shut the door in his face or demand that he leave their property. On those occasions he tries his best to diffuse the situation and he always respects the wishes of the homeowners.

From there, he uses all the tools at his disposal to make an accurate appraisal. This can mean looking at house photos posted online by listing agents, taking photos and notes on the exterior of a property and working with the city of Portland to view permit activities to see if the homeowner has or intends to do work on the house.

Not every homeowner wants to shut county appraisers out. When Montgomery comes knocking, there are people that do let him in to take photos and take stock of the house. They openly chat with Montgomery about their property and enthusiastically ask questions about property tax and real market value.

"I always keep in mind that I'm walking into someone's house and they didn't know I was coming," Montgomery says. "So I put myself in their shoes and try to make them feel as comfortable as possible."   

Montgomery started his relationship with Multnomah County back in 2011. He was a sophomore at Warner Pacific College majoring in business administration when he heard about an opportunity to gain hands-on work experience. Through the urging of a school advisor, Montgomery applied and was accepted into the then-newly launched College to County Mentorship program, the College to County program aims to attract and recruit recent graduates and members of underrepresented communities into its ranks.

The College to County program has accepted more than 90 students over the past five years. Students are recruited from specific college education support programs and community organizations including the Act Six leadership and scholarship program serving George Fox University and Warner Pacific College students and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program at Portland State University and Oregon State University

Montgomery and other members of the 2011 College to County class spent the first half of the summer rotating through various positions within DART. They spent one week in Tax Accounting, the next week in Recording and then in Customer Service.

Montgomery didn't know it at the time, but the second half of this College to Career summer sowed the seeds of his future career path. Montgomery began shadowing county appraisers and worked on a small project where he assisted in measuring and documenting the dimensions of various garages in Multnomah County.

For many, this may seem like an unglamorous task, but Montgomery is a self-described "numbers guy" and the experience whet his appetite for the appraisal profession.

After that 2011 internship, he turned his focus back to his studies until graduating in May 2014. That same month, he picked up where he left off, interning again through the College to County program at DART.  

Within two weeks of the internship ending in August 2014, Montgomery secured his appraiser's license from the State of Oregon. By September 2014 he was hired by DART as a temporary employee. By January 2015 he was hired on as a full-time, permanent appraiser.

"Jaques was one of the first four students to become involved in the College to County program and he was then - as he is now - a very quiet, but conscientious young man who embraced the work," says College to County coordinator Allyson Spencer.

"He developed wonderful relationships with his mentors and with the team in which he works. I was not surprised when he applied for and got a permanent position with Multnomah County. He's always had a sense of public service and always had a sense of excellence in the work that he does."

Today Montgomery performs residential appraisals in East Portland north of Division Street. He enjoys the work and says that no two days are the same.

Back at the office, he knows he brings a perspective that isn't well represented.  

"I was living in Northeast Portland when it wasn't what it is now," he says. "When it wasn't the hip place to be. I lived five blocks from Alberta (Street) from 1992 to 2010. I've seen the transition take place. I can provide that historical reference point. I was born and raised here."

And unlike many of his coworkers, Montgomery is the first person in his immediate family to earn a college degree and own his own house. The latter accomplishment he attributes to the skills he's learned as a county appraiser.

"Working at the county opened my eyes. I'm talking to homeowners every day...I know what good quality work looks like."

So one day he asked himself: "Why not me?" and embarked on a house hunt that would end up taking the better part of a year. The process was frustrating at times, but Montgomery finally found the property he was searching for and - at the age of 24 - he became a homeowner.

"I'm proud of my accomplishments," says Montgomery. "It speaks to my life. I'll set a huge goal and I'll go for it."

Created on 04/25/2017 by Andrea Coghlan last updated on 05/04/2017