A farewell to George Miller

Local congressman sets to retire

Allan Kew, Staff Member

Rep. George Miller, D-Concord, announced he will not be seeking reelection this year. Elected at 29, during the Watergate scandal that rocked all of Washington politics, Miller has represented the East Bay for 40 years.

Throughout his time, Miller championed for education projects and social services, including being one of the writers for both the No Child Left Behind and  Affordable Care acts. His track record in Congress is incredibly long, including having served as a senior Democrat of the Education and the Workforce Committee, among many other committees and caucuses.

I have my own personal history with Miller’s Concord district office. Last autumn I contacted Miller’s office to apply for an internship. The interview was smooth and calm, and afterward I was introduced to several members of the staff. The entire office was friendly and welcoming, wishing me the best of luck and hoping we’d get to know each other better. A week later I was interning behind a desk.

One of the most surprising things, I found, was that the office is first-line of support for of the many constituents contacting us. They had a variety of issues that spanned the entire political spectrum, from complaints to even trying to give someone access to the country from another nation abroad, to helping postal services.

In the office, I learned quickly that no topic was off limits for the phone lines. If there was an inquiry, I’d direct the constituent to another member of the office that specialized with their problem, or attempt to provide them with the answers they were seeking. Sometimes we could help them, sometimes we couldn’t. It’s disheartening sometimes, because people’s lives can get caught up in bureaucratic red tape, but for every case that had to be deferred or could not be solved, there were a dozen success stories and appreciative people waiting in line to thank Miller at the next town hall discussion or chance meeting at an event.

Miller worked his way into meeting the electorate whenever his schedule permitted, and did so through several methods. His most common route was through direct meetings held in his Concord office; he would even sacrifice his tightly-knitted schedule to listen to peoples’ qualms and requests. His second most-used method of meeting people was through his popular town hall meetings, which he tried to hold every year. People lined the walls just to listen to the man, filing out the door in Orinda, Walnut Creek and in Pleasant Hill where he had his town halls this past November. Miller addressed as many concerns as he could, while keeping the peace between rowdy listeners.

Recently, his time was drawn to national and international issues more than his district, strictly due to the high intensity of last fall’s agenda: He waged war against a military incursion in Syria; he debated the House floor with Republicans during the government shutdown, calling them “Jihadists”; and he tackled  the problematic and controversial Affordable Care Act launch.

Throughout my internship, I was rarely able to meet Miller in person except for several chance encounters and a brief talk one morning. The man himself is towering in size, with a voice as deep and bellowing as his stature. He doesn’t act like one would expect of a congressman: he is not stately and mild-mannered, but rugged and down to earth. He is not simple, but cunning and decisive in how he talks and how he works. I could easily see why this man appealed to so many supporters.

In our chat, I was astounded by the man inside the lion. He was very courteous and polite,  putting up with the nervousness I exhibited when he spoke my name. My hands shook as he attempted to read the sentences off of teleprompter cards for a video he was posting on his site. He simply joked away the time and asked me about myself. He struck me as a person genuinely interested in young people, who cared about what they thought and how they were living.

When I heard that Miller was leaving, I couldn’t help but feel saddened for my community. I am a lover of history, and with Miller’s departure, an epoch in Washington is coming to a close. Miller, as I came to see him, exhibited the qualities that are fine and should be found in all politicians: integrity, honor and a sense of duty to his constituents. While his politics are not shared by all he represents, he is a campaigner for their welfare, and a spokesman for their needs and desires in the nation’s capital.