One way or another, plenty of York residents knew Bill Miller. For those who didn’t, the city’s left-hand man had plenty to do with shaping the place they call home.
“He worked up until the very end for the city of York,” said Mayor Eddie Lee.
Lee ordered flags lowered to half staff after Miller, 67, died Wednesday.
Miller sat in a council seat off and on since 1976. The sitting council member started his current run in 2002. Miller missed only the most recent council meeting despite declining health in recent years.
Even when he could no longer walk well, Miller routinely rode around the city to see what projects might need to be done, Lee said.
“He constantly monitored the city,” Lee said. “Up until the very end, he was a public servant.”
Miller and the mayor trace a friendship back four decades. Lee was an elected official in Chester and Miller in his native York when the pair, both in their early 20s, met at a state municipal association gathering.
“I looked around and said, everybody here has gray hair,” Lee said. “Everybody was two or three times our age.”
Lee and Miller stuck together, and in 2002 joined forces again when York voters elected both to the roles both still held until Miller’s death. Mayor Pro Tem Ed Brown also joined then. The trio faced about as dire a crisis as an elected official can.
“We had run out of water,” Lee said.
Drought strained York. It was the first council meeting for the new officials when they got the news. A water committee formed, and a partnership with Rock Hill and its then-Mayor Doug Echols formed to buy water.
“That was a major achievement because now we get our water from the city of Rock Hill, like Fort Mill does,” Lee said. “We were the beginning of that.”
Miller was a major reason the deal happened.
“Bill Miller on that water committee was a key person, because he understood business.”
A minister now, Brown remembers Miller from years back when Brown worked as a curbhop and cook.
“Bill’s always been a real nice gentleman,” Brown said. “Always had a beautiful spirit about him. Bill always had kind of a laid back personality. He was a lovable guy.”
Miller’s personality helped when major decisions needed to be made for the city.
“We don’t have a bunch of disagreements,” Brown said. “Even when we disagree, we’re not disagreeable.”
Lee gives the same account.
“For a big portion of our lives, we served together,” Lee said. “Even when we disagreed, there was never any yelling back and forth. He always smiled. I mean, if you’re going to disagree with somebody, do it with a smile. In my time in politics, not everybody does that.”
Miller sat just left of the mayor when the council met. Left-handed, Lee leaned on his long-time friend both literally and figuratively. Sometimes the two were close even when they didn’t intend to be.
“Bill Miller was, in a way, my left-hand man,” Lee said.
Miller served Dist. 3 in York. He didn’t file for re-election this coming November. Marvin Long, Ben Jones and Marion Ramsey all filed for Dist. 3. In all, York has seven candidates running for the mayor and three council seats.
Miller made rounds in the community. He sponsored baseball teams. At his last council meeting in August, he asked about building a fire substation. He heard paving projects, community grant possibilities, audit services. He welcomed a new city manager, heard plans for the coming Christmas parade.
Council heard news about a junior state championship baseball team and commended a police officer who saved a choking man’s life.
Miller served on the Piedmont Medical Center board and was involved in the chamber of commerce activities. His own business, Nationwide Insurance, is known for its “on your side” slogan. With Miller and the people of York, friends say, it fit.
“He always had the citizens of York in mind,” Brown said.
Brown wonders what might be if all political leaders took the approach his friend did, caring passionately about community and disagreeing at times on issues but never making it personal.
“We’d be a whole lot better,” Brown said. “A whole lot better.”