Phil Montgomery, Akron’s Deputy Director of Public Service, has a dizzying schedule of work and civic involvement. The Akron resident has also signed up to compete in the Gay Games 9 (GG9) that will play out during the week of Aug. 9 through 16 in Akron and Cleveland.
One might think after a quick glance at Montgomery that he’d be participating in flag football, bodybuilding or ice hockey, some of the more than 35 events being staged at GG9.
But who’s to say a strapping guy cannot participate in other sports? But then again …
“I’m registered to bowl,” Montgomery says. “I was going to try and do bowling and power lifting but my husband talked me out of power lifting. But I think he’s pumped to see everything come to town, and a lot more happy that I am not power lifting.”
That husband is Andrew Schuellerman, whom Montgomery married in 2010 in Washington, D.C. “He’s a safety mom … he has this thing,” Montgomery quips.
Montgomery’s public service job for the city has many facets, and he also serves on many boards furthering Akron and the LGBT community.
“So we have all the sexy stuff, roads, sewer, garbage …,” Montgomery says of his job. “There’s four major bureaus: sewer, water, engineering and public works.” Public works entails highway, fleet and building maintenance, street cleaning, sanitation, as well as overseeing Lock 3 and the city-owned golf courses.
“It’s never a dull moment; each day is different,” adds Montgomery adds, who’s also a former Ward 8 Councilman.
Raised in Taylor, Mich., outside of Dearborn, Montgomery made Akron his home about eight years ago. He attended Ohio Dominican University in Columbus.
He comes from a family of bowlers on both sides and played in college.
“Yeah, when I finished up bowling last year my average was 216,” says Montgomery. “My mom tells me I was on my first league when I was three years old, but I don’t know whether I believe that or not.”
Interestingly, Montgomery took four years off from the sport when he worked in corporate audit, which required lots of travel, leaving little time to bowl.
But that absence somehow made him a better player. “My average was a lot higher than what it was before I took the break,” he remembers.
Another perk for Montgomery competing in a sport he loves is that for the first time of the Gay Games “the bowlers will be under one roof,” unlike past Games when competitors had to compete in different bowling venues.
The GG9 bowling event will take place Aug. 10 through 14 at Game of Wickliffe.
Akron has a storied history with bowling, as readers may recall Riviera Lanes in Fairlawn hosted the PBA Tournament of Champions from 1966 through 1994, according to www.bowlingdigital.com.
Northeast Ohio is the most recent home of the quadrennial event, last staged in Cologne, Germany in 2010. When the GG9 site selection committee from the Federation of Gay Games came to Akron and Cleveland back in 2010, there was some stiff competition, including Boston and Washington, D.C.
Montgomery provides some insight as to why he thinks Northeast, Ohio won the bid, which is expected to bring to the Games 11,000-plus athletes and 35,000 visitors from all over the globe.
“If you think about it our competition included Boston and D.C., which are really cool cities, with a lot of history and things to offer,” Montgomery offers. “But it’s also twice as expensive to travel there, and for anyone who’s going to take a week off to attend the Games … And here it’s much more affordable and friendly, so why not?”
And while bigger cities may feel compelled to pull out all the stops, even be a bit showy, when hosting potential conventions or other events on the scale of the Gay Games, Montgomery says Akron was not.
“Yes, we kind of rolled out the old-fashioned red carpet, capped off with a reception at the Knight Center, but it wasn’t anything over the top, it was just as you’d expect,” says Montgomery. “When people come from out of town to see what you have to offer, they want to see the reality, what it’s like every day, not the pie-in-the-sky or over the top stuff.”
Akron and Cleveland also provide a few firsts in the history of the Gay Games, since it was launched in 1982 in San Francisco.
“This is the first year the Games are stretching into two cities, which is a whole different dynamic,” Montgomery says. “And it’s the first year we will have a presenting sponsor, which I think speaks volumes for the Akron and Cleveland communities.”
Gay Games 9 presenting sponsor is the Cleveland Foundation. Akron and Cleveland will take their place in history between Cologne, Germany (2010) and then back to Europe, where the next Games will be held in 2018 in Paris.
About one-third of the events will be in Akron, and as the city’s deputy director of public service and the facilities chairman for the GG9 Akron Task Force, Montgomery says: “Fortunately, it’s part of my job. I’ll be floating around to the different venues throughout the week to see what’s going on, making sure everything’s working smoothly from a facilities perspective.”
In October, the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation announced that proceeds from its annual Sugar Plum Tour, along with a generous grant from Akron Community Foundation and two additional donors, would support the games in a big way, bringing the fund’s total commitment to a record $100,000 and making it a platinum sponsor and the official host sponsor of events held in Akron and Summit County.
Back in 2006 during the Gay Games in Chicago, Montgomery recollects how he felt as a spectator.
“It was really a big deal, and when I sat there in awe of having walked into Soldier Stadium, where the Bears play, and see all the athletes on the field …,” he recalls. “And then you see that the spectators fill about half the stadium. It’s pretty impressive.”
This time around, as a participant, Montgomery adds, “It will be both humbling and inspiring.”
Montgomery says the GG9 tagline is “clever”: “You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be gay. You just have to be 18.” Although Akron and Cleveland has embraced the LGBT population by hosting GG9, Montgomery cites that he’s had many a conversation with folks who were unaware the two cities were even hosting the Games.
Pausing briefly, Montgomery says: “It’s been a great educational opportunity not only for the Games but for the community to really get the message out there that, ‘We’re like everybody else and we want everybody to be involved.’ What we tried to do is educate them and say, ‘Why would a population that’s been discriminated against for a long time discriminate against somebody else coming to participate in an event?’”
Additional information on GG9 may be found at www.gg9cle.com.