Thursday, January 07, 2010

When She Was Mayor, It Was Miller Time

I'm sure there are many of you out there who knew Harriet Miller much better than I did. But the few occasions that I crossed paths with the late former mayor of Santa Barbara were always entertaining.

Miller passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

I first met her at the annual Democratic Party Labor Day picnic at Oak Park back in 1995. I was there to announce my candidacy for Superior Court Judge and try to get as many people as possible on my list of endorsers. I approached Miller (whom I had never previously met) and before I could open my mouth she waived me off saying "I don't get involved in other people's campaigns." (Miller herself was running for mayor at the time.)

Later, as the picnic was breaking up, Miller passed by and said, "A lot of old ladies who I go to church with often ask me who they should vote for and I will certainly mention your name." "Old ladies?" Of course back in 1995 Miller herself was 75, but I think it's fair to say that back then and probably up until the day she died, she probably never thought of herself as an "old lady."

Although she may have been chronologically old, her energy level always seemed to exceed that of people who were years younger than herself. And her mind was as sharp as the crease on a pleated skirt.

On Sunday mornings, I would often see her down near the beach taking an early morning walk, she would always say hello.

After she left public office, the times I would run into her became fewer and further between. In fact, over time, she probably forgot who I was. A couple of years ago I was trying to check something out for a blog post I was writing. Someone told me that Miller might have the information I was looking for. I called her and left a message and she called back later that day.

I asked her if what I had heard was true and her answer was something along the lines of, "Who the hell are you and why do you want to know?" Miller was a lot of things but regular-reader-of-my-blog wasn't one of them.

But after I told her who I was and why I wanted to know, she went ahead and spoke to me.

Miller never fit the stereotype of a "senior citizen." She didn't drive a Buick but rather was seen tooling around town in a Mercedes. And you were more likely to see her drinking a bourbon than a Dubonnet.

Miller was one of a kind. The best kind. And you could live in Santa Barbara for 90 years and not see another Harriet Miller come along.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and