I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Later this year, there will be a change in Canadian County, one for the worse and not the better as District Court Judge Gary Miller retires from the bench.
If there is one person in our county who has led the charge in making children’s lives better here, it is Gary Miller. Long before there was the center that now bears his name, the judge worked to help children and their families, working to provide services still not available in many counties even bigger than our own.
“During his career, Judge Miller has been a visionary leader in the area of juvenile justice and children’s issues,” Canadian County District Attorney Michael Fields said. “Through his dedication and advocacy, he’s played an immeasurable role in helping transform our juvenile justice system into what it is today.”
That statement was brought to life before the March election over the children’s justice center sales tax. It was then I heard testimony after testimony of children – now adults – who had been impacted by Miller and the center. Whether they were involved in the group home, had faced behavioral or legal difficulties or were protected as children of abuse or neglect, they in one voice talked about how the center and its personnel had changed their lives for the better.
“It all began with Judge Miller,” one of them said.
It’s been a long ride for the judge, who has been part of Canadian County’s judiciary for 21 years. When he retires, most likely in September, he will leave not only a legacy of children he has helped, but also a courthouse of people who have learned and grown from his wisdom, victims who have gotten justice under his watch and a county that is regarded as one of the most progressive in the state when it comes to juvenile affairs.
As a reporter, I’ve seen many signs of Judge Miller. In my early days, it was as an advocate for the children’s justice center and then on a few occasions interviewing him during his work for the Department of Human Services. But, it’s since his return to the judiciary, when he took over Canadian County’s top spot, that I have seen so much more to this man.
Six trials, hearings probably numbering in the hundreds now, and I have seen in Judge Miller someone who takes the law and his responsibility to everyone – accuser and accused both, families and witnesses – very seriously. And, while it might seem like that should be a given, it not always is. As a legal assistant, I’ve been part of trials where judges played solitaire on their phone, slept, let jurors sleep and more.
Suffice it to say I thought I knew Gary Miller pretty darn well – and I do. But, I was again surprised just recently when working on a story about the county’s adult drug court. Again, I was impressed with a judge who cares about people, all people, and who works every day to make their lives better. His interactions with those taking part in drug court were a perfect illustration of that.
“What can we do for you, what do you need from us,” he asked participant after participant. Phrases like “You’re doing great,” “We’re proud of you,” “You can do it,” “That’s just a setback” were his response to most of the people who were part of the program, some of them who had stumbled and fallen.
But, he hadn’t given up on them, no more than he has our county’s children or families impacted by crime.
“There are a lot of children who are now adults whose lives would be much different had it not been for Judge Miller’s commitment to children’s issues,” Fields said to me when I asked him to give me a quote about the judge. “Can there be a more significant legacy than this?”
I say no, that’s about as significant of a legacy as anyone could ever ask for. And, I thank you for all you have done for so many, judge. You will be missed.