Tragedy has a way of altering the way a person views the world. For 37-year-old Andrea Montgomery, St. Lawrence County director of the Office for the Aging, the loss of her parents helped her realize life is not something to be taken for granted.
Mrs. Montgomery said both of her parents passed away by the time she was 29, and having that experience forever changed her.
“In my early 20’s, I had a vision of how my life was supposed to go,” she said. “Life truly is too short and I want to make every day matter.”
Mrs. Montgomery said her father was a strong, compassionate leader and both he and her mother helped shape her into who she is today.
“(My father) taught me to think logically about problems and work with others to find solutions. My mother taught me the importance of hard work and never thinking any job is beneath you,” she said. “My father always told me to be kind and to put myself in the other person’s shoes when faced with a challenge. I am a caring, empathetic person because of the example he set in his own life.”
Mrs. Montgomery said she landed back in the north country from New York City to take care of her mother in 2003 after her father passed away. Mrs. Montgomery began working for St. Lawrence NYSARC, where she created an arts program for individuals with developmental disabilities.
She found meaningful work at a young age when she came back to the north country said Mrs. Montgomery.
“There is so much opportunity for young people in the north country if you can be creative about what you would like to do and be willing to work hard to achieve your goals,” she said. “I was in a leadership role at NYSARC that would have taken me years to achieve in New York City due to the volume of people and competition for jobs.”
Mrs. Montgomery said local leaders need to show young people the good jobs are available.
“The biggest myth in the north county might be that there aren’t opportunities for young people. I truly believe that we are an ever-growing and flourishing area,” Mrs. Montgomery said. “I think north country leaders and employers need to be creative and think outside of the box.”
She also said employers need to find a way to incorporate the passions of young job seekers into their jobs and believes that the best is yet to come in Northern New York.
One of the biggest difficulties as director of the Office for Aging is the amount of time the job requires. Mrs. Montgomery said it is difficult to balance work life and family life, but using time management skills allows her to succeed as a director, mother and wife.
“Sleep is the one area that is probably sacrificed the most,” she quipped.
Mrs. Montgomery said she is motivated by the difference she and her team make in the lives of the elderly in St. Lawrence County on a daily basis. She said her department helps seniors stay safe, healthy and happily in their homes for as long as possible.
“It is what all of us want as we age and I am in the fortunate position to help people do that,” she said.
By involving her children in her various community service activities, Mrs. Montgomery is hoping to instill the desire to help others in them and show them that helping others is something they should want to do.
“I was raised to be aware of my own good fortune and it is innate within me to want to help others. I am a caretaker by nature,” she said.
Mrs. Montgomery also said she was inspired by her brother,
Scott, who has been active in various civic organizations for
most of his life.
When asked who she would like to change places with for a day, Mrs. Montgomery said she would not want to trade with anyone.
“I love my life and am so grateful for all of the people in it,” she said.