Former councilor reflects on public service

As Michael Miller steps down from the Portales City Council after more than eight years, he says he’s most proud of the city’s good financial standing.

“I enjoyed the council,” Miller, 54, said.

When Orlando Ortega Jr. was elected mayor in the middle of his council term in 2002, he appointed Miller to finish that term. Miller ran for and won election to the office twice more.

Miller recently moved from Ward D, which he represents on the council, to Ward C. He still owned the house in Ward D, but thought it best to step down from his position when he decided to sell that house, Miller said.

He doesn’t plan to sit at the next council meeting.

Now, he intends to keep his clients happy as a lobbyist. Miller has no immediate plans to run for office again, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility.

“A guy always has to keep his options open,” he said.

Ortega, who didn’t run for another term as mayor this year, said it was an honor to work with Miller.

“Mike is a very dedicated, passionate member of the community who shows it with his work on the council,” Ortega continued.

Ortega said he appointed Miller because of his leadership skills, experience in the community and volunteer work.

Mayor Sharon King said Miller has been a critical member of the council, especially on the finance committee. King said she would take Miller up on his offer to continue with the finance committee, but he would be missed on the council.

The city is conducting a search for Miller’s replacement.

Ward D voters have until Friday to submit a letter of interest in the position, and then a committee with review them, King said. She expects to choose a new councilor by Dec. 7.

As a boy, Miller had Scoutmasters who held city office, and they would bring the scouts attend council meetings and participate.

“That’s where my interest first sparked,” he said.

At age 14, Miller served as scorekeeper for city-league basketball, and, as an adult, he joined Portales Fire Department full time. After leaving for a stint with Clovis Fire Department, Miller returned to serve as Portales fire chief for nine years and then Roosevelt County manager for six years.

So, Miller said, when Ortega asked if he was interested in serving on the council, he thought his experiences would be helpful. He wanted to give back to the community.

Budget issues were always a concern for him, he said. Because of good decisions by city employees and the council, and breaks such as Cannon Air Force Base expanding, Miller said, Portales has dealt with declining income better than many cities.

“Those are the things I’m probably most proud of: That we’ve been able to continue to serve the taxpayer in a responsible way,” he said. “We haven’t had to cut any services, and we haven’t had to ask for any new revenue.”

Another set of memories that sticks out to Miller is honoring retiring employees, particularly firefighters he hired.

“It was a great ride,” Miller said.