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Warren mourns loss of ‘irreplaceable’ leader Art Miller

Former state senator ‘loved people’ and family, remembered as a ‘consensus builder’

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published July 1, 2020

 The son of Warren’s first mayor, Art Miller spent 26 years in the Michigan Senate from 1977 to 2002, including a 10-year span as the Democratic leader.

The son of Warren’s first mayor, Art Miller spent 26 years in the Michigan Senate from 1977 to 2002, including a 10-year span as the Democratic leader.

Photo provided by Derek Miller

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WARREN — Warren lost more than a former state senator and City Council president with the death of Art Miller.

Family members, friends and former colleagues are left mourning the loss of a longtime leader and advocate for the city’s interests at the local and state levels, a man with direct ties to Warren’s earliest days as a municipality.

Former state Sen. Arthur Joseph Miller Jr., 73, died June 25 due to complications from cancer treatment. As the news spread, tributes poured in from all who knew him as a friend, mentor, problem solver and family patriarch, a “giant” in regional politics with a reputation for consensus building and “irreplaceable” political savvy.

The son of Warren’s first mayor, Miller spent 26 years in the Michigan Senate from 1977 to 2002, including a 10-year span as the Democratic leader. He also served on the Warren City Council and became its president at the age of 25 in 1971, and he ran for mayor against Mark Steenbergh in 1995.

The city most recently tapped into his vast knowledge of the political workings in Lansing by hiring him as a lobbyist. It speaks volumes that the hire was made by Steenbergh, his former opponent, in 2005 and continued under Mayor Jim Fouts, who once railed against the expenditure but clearly, as an administrator, recognized the value of Miller’s keen, unique and Warren-focused insight.

“First and foremost, family was everything,” said Miller’s son, Derek Miller, a former state representative, Macomb treasurer and assistant Macomb County prosecuting attorney. “I think that was instilled in him by his parents.”

Art Miller’s father, Arthur J. Miller, served as Warren’s first mayor from 1957 to 1961. He was later elected Macomb County Clerk and was succeeded by his wife, Edna, Art Miller’s mother, when he died in 1964. Edna Miller later became the first woman elected to the county clerk’s seat.

“She (Edna) just instilled hard work and values in him, and he learned a tremendous amount from his father, who was a leader in Warren,” Derek Miller said. “One of the biggest things he always told me that he learned from his parents was to listen to people. It didn’t matter if it was someone washing dishes at a restaurant or the governor. Everyone’s opinion has value. Talk less and listen more was something he always said.”

Derek Miller recalled hunting trips with his father, where the Democratic state senator spent time in the woods around West Branch with his Republican colleagues from the other side of the aisle. He said today’s political bickering wasn’t an issue for his father, who always looked for common ground as a way of finding solutions to the state’s pressing matters. Supporting public safety, education and labor rights were among the issues he championed.

Derek Miller said years after his father left the Michigan Senate, while doing contracted lobbyist work for the city, he was still trying to connect people in the community with the resources that could solve problems or assuage concerns. He’d chat with them over breakfast at Theo’s Family Restaurant, and he’d make a call to try and get problems on track toward being resolved.  

“One of the most important things is he genuinely loved people,” Derek Miller said. “We were all so fortunate to have him as a father.”

Fouts called Miller’s death “devastating” and said he was someone he could call anytime for assistance with matters related to state government.

“He was a true servant of the people of Warren,” Fouts said. “He was a professional with a passion for getting things done. He is irreplaceable, and he will be greatly missed.”

State Sen. Paul Wojno, D-Warren, said, “Art was great. I’ve known the family since Art’s grandfather, who had a poultry market at Eight and Van Dyke. I don’t know how the city replaces him as a lobbyist. A wealth of knowledge.”

Former state Sen. Steve Bieda, who served two four-year terms in the Michigan Senate, said his family knew the Millers through Warren’s St. Sylvester parish.

“He knew how to reach a consensus with people,” Bieda said. “I think he really was very well respected on both sides of the aisle. Even after that, when he left office, people were respectful and appreciative of his history and his knowledge.”

Art Miller leaves behind his wife, Marsha. The couple was due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer. They have four children and nine grandchildren.

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