Although her path in life has taken her many places, Linda Guinn Montgomery can’t seem to stop coming home.
“I’ve left Idaho Falls ‘never to return’ three times,” said Montgomery, a 1974 graduate of Skyline High school. Today she holds a senior management title at Idaho National Laboratory – Knowledge Management director – and chairs the Museum of Idaho’s board of directors. In August, she will go to Boise to receive an ICON Award from the Idaho Business Review.
ICON Awards are given to business leaders over the age of 50 in recognition of their notable success and demonstrations of leadership. Montgomery was nominated by Robert Hillier, INL’s chief information officer. In his submission, among other accomplishments he cited her work to bring the NuScale small modular reactor to Idaho, her establishment of a knowledge management portal for environmental compliance, and her efforts to restructure several lab organizations.
At the Museum of Idaho, he pointed to her leadership in getting a new wing built, quoting a letter from Greg Carr, chairman of the Carr Foundation, “(I) can state with certainty she saved (MOI) from a decline from which it may not have recovered.”
Growing up in Idaho Falls, she was Linda Jenson, a bookworm who spent a lot of time at the Carnegie Library (which now comprises the Museum of Idaho’s southern section.) After graduating from high school, she attended Eastern Idaho Vocational Technical School (now College of Eastern Idaho), where she earned an associate’s degree in radiation safety.
“My whole goal was to not marry a Navy guy,” she said. Yet when she left Idaho Falls for Salt Lake City, she met Gary Guinn, “one of 12 Navy men in the whole city.” They got married and started a family. Then, on the same day their daughter entered kindergarten, they both started college. Majoring in ecology at Kansas University, she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1988.
Pondering what to do next, she took the LSAT and started a summer class at KU’s law school. By September, she was first in her class and determined to pursue a career in environmental law. She found the law suited her. “I liked that there were not any absolutely wrong answers and they let me talk as much as I wanted,” Montgomery said.
She and her family returned to Idaho Falls in 1990, taking a position with EG&G Idaho as senior environmental attorney. During this initial stint, she got the first hazardous waste permit for mixed radioactive and hazardous waste, reconciling multiple regulatory schemes with each other. In 1994, they moved to Golden, Colorado, where she served as EG&G Environmental’s senior consultant. The following year, she negotiated the first closure contract for the Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Plant.
She became an assistant general counsel for Fluor Inc. in South Carolina.
After 33 years of marriage, she lost her husband Gary in 2009. They had been living in Aiken, South Carolina, since 2007, where she had been general counsel for Savannah River Nuclear Solutions at the Savannah River Site. Following her husband’s death, Mark Olsen, general counsel for Battelle Energy Alliance, called her and asked if she wanted to come home. As both of her children were living west of the Mississippi, it seemed like a good idea. It also brought her back into contact with Bob Montgomery, a friend of 20 years, who became her second husband.
Montgomery served as BEA’s general counsel until 2016, when she took her Knowledge Management position. Back in Idaho Falls, she said she was amazed by certain things that had occurred in her absence: community art, downtown development and especially the Museum of Idaho. A volunteer by nature, she became secretary of the MOI Board of Trustees in 2012 and was elected chairwoman in 2015 – a position she still holds.
The museum’s bottom line was being hampered by the periods of down time when it had to be closed while exhibits were being changed out. Montgomery guided a $5 million capital campaign for a new wing that will allow more flexibility. Once that is in place, it will be time to build an endowment.
Montgomery has also served on the Idaho Falls YMCA board, and was on the Extreme Blue Thunder board that brought the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to Idaho Falls in 2017. That airshow netted $120,000 for local charities and received the Navy’s “Best Airshow of the Year” award.
The newest entry on Montgomery’s resume is as a loaned executive to College of Eastern Idaho, forging collaborations between the lab and the college. Because it was where she earned her first degree, it has a lot of meaning to her. “Back when it was the Vo-Tech school, there were three buildings,” she said. “It’s grown a lot, but we’re going to see a lot more.”
The 2019 ICON winners will be celebrated on Aug. 15, during a formal gala at Boise Centre. In addition, a special publication will feature their stories and career highlights.
For more information and to sign up for tickets, click here.
To view all of the ICON award honorees, click here.