Sevierville (WVLT) -- A county Sheriff is part law officer and part politician. It is a position that requires tough a balancing act no matter what county it is in. Especially a county that's growing fast, and is dependent upon tourists feeling safe enough to visit often and spend
By most any account the late Sheriff Bruce Montgomery raised the bar in Sevier County.
"Sheriff was an easy-going fellow and a God fearing man," said childhood friend Clancy Watson. "He was just somebody that was good to have in the community."
If you can measure good by how many showed up to pay their respects today at the Atchley Funeral Home in Sevierville, the constant stream of visitors speaks beyond words. And today many of the visitors found themselves at a loss for words when remembering Montgomery.
"Service above self is the best way I can describe Bruce Montgomery," according to Pigeon Forge Fire Chief Tony Watson.
"If you had a problem, you could bring it to Bruce," Watson said. "Most times he'd take care of it."
Some say that spirit of service comes from his days playing high school football in Gatlinburg. Others say it was his father who he followed into police work, where he spent years working as a Federal Marshal. And yet many believe that Montgomery always had a love for his fellow man.
"He use to loan me sports coats and clothes to wear to school functions," according to Von Teaster, another of the Sheriff's childhood friends. "He started driving early, to drive his grandfather around cause he was a doctor."
Compassion toward those with inadequate transportation manifested its way later in Montgomery's life. When he became Sheriff in 1994 the office barely resembled what it has become more than a decade later.
"We drove used vehicles from the Highway Patrol," said Lt. Fred Atchley from the Sevierville Fire Department. "We didn't have any new vehicles, we didn't have a whole lot of anything."
When given a little bit of time and the right connections, Sheriff Montgomery began to change that.
"We got new cars, we got new vests, new weapons, new uniforms," Atchley said.
The Sheriff also handled the political side of the job like none previously had. He brought county agencies together and made them work.
"Bruce knew how to handle people and deal with people, any and every kind he'd run into," according to Teaster.
The community is now left mourning, not only for Bruce Montgomery's achievements and contributions but because he never forgot his root in the community.
"There might be somebody else to do as well as he has," Watson said, "but nobody will be able to do better, because he means so much to the community. He knew where he was from and that's about it."