A veteran telephone executive who found a niche directing fundraising and social service efforts in retirement has been honored as Medford's First Citizen for 2010.
The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County presented the award to Gary Miller Thursday during its 91st Annual Excellence in Business Awards dinner at Rogue Valley Country Club.
"A lot of people have worn the title 'Mr. Medford,' and he's got to be in that category as well, going all the way back to his days as a kid at Cubby's Drive-in," said chamber Chief Executive Brad Hicks. "He's had his fingerprints on so many things over the last 40 or 50 years, it's hard to come up with a short list of things."
Whether it was an all-state athlete at Medford High School, the front man for the regional telephone company, beefing up the Rogue Valley Manor Foundation or in his present role of directing ACCESS, the social service agency, Miller brought a spirit of cooperation and accomplishment. "One of the reasons people love working with Gary is when he signs on to something, it's genuinely out of concern for the community. There is no personal or hidden agenda, whether it's providing kids a state-of-the-art place to play baseball or keeping people warm and fed in the wintertime, Medford is right next to his heart and it shows."
Miller was born in Youngstown, Ohio, followed by stops in Tracy, Calif., and Turkey before entering McLoughlin Junior High School when his family moved to Medford in the late 1950s.
He played baseball at Oregon State University, earned his bachelor's degree at Southern Oregon University and picked up a graduate degree in marketing at the University of Oregon. "That's why he gets along so well with everyone," said Skip Patterson, retired regional manager for Pacific Power. "He's certainly someone who loved his family, his profession and his community. And he loves sports and baseball."
Patterson first met Miller at a chamber meeting two decades ago. "I knew right away he was able to meet and greet folks," Patterson recalled. "The big thing is that he's not a pushy individual, but very goal-oriented and high-achieving. (If) there is a goal out there that needs to get done, he's one of the first out there to go tackle it."
Miller was community affairs manager in Southern Oregon for 13 years before wrapping up a 32-year career with US West and Qwest in 2002. Among his many pursuits, Miller was a board member for Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc., or SOREDI.
"With ACCESS, he's brought a lot to the organization, understanding all the services they provide and working with state and local officials, which he does very well," Patterson said. "If we really boil it down, we're really honoring a first citizen that's a normal fellow who is a high-achiever."
The other awards presented at the dinner include:
- Retailer of the Year: Porters restaurant.
- Member of the Year: Mark Von Holle, S&B James Construction.
- New Member of the Year: David Figurate, Sterling Savings Bank.
- Outstanding Corporate Citizen-For Profit: Airport Chevrolet-Cadillac.
- Outstanding Corporate Citizen-Not for Profit: St. Mary's School.
- Business Excellence: The Human Bean (fewer than 50 employees); Rogue Valley Country Club (51-150 employees); and South Valley Bank & Trust (more than 151 employees).
- Future First Citizen: Dakota Garza, North Medford High.