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Local boy makes good

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By Steve Doyle

You may not have noticed unless you knew the man, but on Election Day a Shelby Countian won office in a landslide victory, and most of you didn’t even have the opportunity to vote for him.

Jerry T. Miller, a native of the Clark Station community near Simpsonville and a graduate of Shelby County High School, stormed to a berth on the Metro Council in Louisville, taking almost 75 percent of the vote as the Republican candidate to replace Hal Heiner in eastern Jefferson County.

“I polled about 58 percent in a three-way primary, but it was a very hard-fought contest,” Miller said last week. “In recent elections, Republicans earn about 65 percent of the general election vote, so I was surprised that I got almost 75 percent.”

Consider that Miller, 58, did this in an election that had sort of been on his radar for many, many years, though he didn’t exactly know what the office would be.

Since his days at SCHS, Miller said he has considered a role in public service, but a successful foray into business delayed that process for three decades, leading him first into an appointed position and now to a fully elected one.

It is, as the cliché sometimes goes, a dream fulfilled.

“When I was a senior at Shelby County High, I considered a career in public service as a lawyer or in the foreign service, he said “After a rough first year at UK, I changed my major to business and accounting, which is where I spent my 31-year career in the private sector.

“Following Ernie Fletcher’s election as governor in 2003, I decided the time was right to rekindle that old dream.”

Miller first was appointed CFO for Commerce Secretary Jim Host for two years and then became Commissioner of Kentucky State Parks.

“My experiences were so positive that I knew I wanted to continue public service someday,” he said. “When my councilman, Hal Heiner, decided to run for mayor, leaving his seat open, I knew it was now or never.”

 

Republican history

Miller had served as the chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party, so he well knew the infrastructure of getting into the race. And for the General Election, he even won the endorsement of The Courier-Journal.

His campaign was based on traditional Republican values – fiscal conservatism and family values, with a push for transparent government thrown in – and he will be joining a council that once again will be led by a Democrat.

Greg Fischer defeated Heiner to replace mayor-for-life Jerry Abramson, who is running as lieutenant governor with Gov. Steve Beshear next year.

“Mayor-elect Fischer is a businessman who recognizes the number one issue in the election is to reverse Louisville’s 10-year slide in private sector employment,” Miller said. “He said he would be his own man and not simply continue the policies of Mayor Abramson.

If that proves true, then he will find a willing partner in me and the other Republicans on Metro Council.”

Roots in Shelby

Miller and his wife, Laura, live in Eastwood, about a mile and a half from the Shelby County line. Did he ever think of moving back to his home turf to launch his political career?

“I’m lucky to live so close to Shelby County, close to family and my old friends,” he said. “I get my hair cut in Simpsonville and am active in the Shelby County Historical Society, so I’m around the county a lot.

“ I always attend the Shelby County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day dinner, subscribe to The Sentinel-News, so I still feel connected to my roots.

“Regardless, Shelby County has some great folks in public service that are doing a wonderful job.”

So Miller will continue in Jefferson County to fulfill what he says he believes is his role in life, to take first steps first and make contributions he believe are there to be made.

But it begs the question of whether he has bigger political plans or if he has found a comfortable place to contribute to the public good.

“I learned too late in life that we weren’t meant to live within our comfort zone,” he said. Although I had a very successful career in the private sector, I realize now that took too few risks.

“I wonder what I could have accomplished, but I prefer to look ahead and not back. My goal is to be as good a councilman as Hal Heiner for the next four or eight years.

“ I’ll let God worry about what happens after that.”