Friends, colleagues bid farewell to board member Neil Miller

If you can judge a man’s character by the company he keeps, Neil Miller is a leader of great stature. He was in good company Thursday.

Gov. Cecil Andrus was there. So were state senators Chuck Winder and Steve Bair. And former ITD Director Dwight Bower and former transportation board member Monte McClure. Pete Hartman from the Federal Highway Administration was there, along with more than half of ITD's district engineers. Present board members, ITD Director Brian Ness and Deputy Director Scott Stokes. And ITD staff members.

But most important, there was Mary, Neil’s wife and greatest supporter.

All were on hand to express their appreciation and best wishes to Miller as he prepares to step down from the transportation board after more than 15 years of service to the department and the state.

Gov. Andrus said he was representing present Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and “one million, four hundred thousand Idaho residents,” in thanking the former legislator and transportation board member. The 80-year-old former governor said he thinks of Miller every day – when he spreads honey on his toast or English muffin. Gov. Andrus said he looks forward to another 20 years, because of the healthy qualities of honey. Miller owned and operated a honey production and pollination service in southeast Idaho for many years and gave the governor a jar when he was first elected to the Legislature.

Bower said he enjoyed sitting at the end of the ring of board members and watching Miller during monthly meetings. The distinguished, gracious and thoughtful Miller usually contemplated board discussion carefully before offering his opinion. When he straightened up in his chair, Bower said, something profound was about to be said. Bower expressed his appreciation with a bear hug.

Board chairman Darrell Manning presented the honoree with a hardwood-mounted clock. District 5 Engineer Ed Bala gave him a shadow box with photos of the Topaz Bridge and a mounted stone from the bridge, the first of the state’s GARVEE projects. Hartman read and presented a congratulatory letter from FHWA, acknowledging Miller’s service to the transportation community.

Miller served three terms in the Idaho Legislature, two as a state representative from Pocatello (1967 to '70) and one in the Senate (1971, ’72). The senior member of the Idaho Transportation Board was first appointed in 1995 and was reappointed to six-year terms in 1999 and 2005.

He was successful in the honey business, operating production facilities in North Dakota, and later pollination services in California and Washington. Miller served two terms as president of the National Honey Packers and Dealers Association and is a retired chairman of the National Honey Promotion Board.

In an emotional farewell to colleagues on the transportation board and in the department, Miller called his 15-year ride a grand learning experience. He read from prepared remarks and thanked his many tutors – fellow board members and ITD staff. The educational process worked both ways the past 15 years, Bala admitted. Miller taught him to be careful about choosing which mountain to wage battle on. He and others who spoke during the hour-long tribute also acknowledged Miller’s wife and fondly recalled many meals she prepared for board members while they toured southeast Idaho.

Miller said ITD has evolved and changed since he joined the board and expressed his confidence in direction the department heading under Brian Ness’s leadership.

Although his term formally expired on Jan. 31, Miller agreed to continue serving on the transportation board until Gov. Otter names, and the Legislature confirms, a replacement. He is planning to participate in the April board meeting and District 2 tour in Lewiston.

Published 3-18-2011