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Local News

Obituaries

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller Dies

A public celebration of life for the longtime civic leader will be Jan. 31 at The Granada

Former Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller died Wednesday at her home. She was 90.

Harriet Miller
Harriet Miller

A public celebration of life will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 31 at The Granada, 1214 State St

Miller, long active in city politics and advocacy, was elected mayor of Santa Barbara in 1995 and served until 2001, and she served on the City Council from 1987 to 1994.

In 2008, she was honored with a League of California Cities Past Presidents Lifetime Achievement Award.

Miller was also active in numerous other organizations, including the National League of Cities and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. She also served on the board of the Environmental Defense Center, and was the director of the AARP in Washington, D.C.

Born July 4, 1919, in Council, Idaho, Miller was the daughter of two teachers. She earned a degree in chemistry and a master’s in political science, and become one of the first women to be elected to a statewide position in Montana, where she served as superintendent of schools.

“Harriet was tireless in her efforts of community and public service. We have lost a very valued member of our community,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who was appointed board chairman Tuesday. “I considered Harriet a good friend, and we will all miss her wit, wisdom and compassion. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her loved ones during this time.”

Wolf has asked that flags at county buildings be flown at half-staff.

Miller was the owner and president of HMA Inc., a consulting firm, before beginning her tenure on the City Council.

She also was instrumental in the restoration effort of The Granada, where she served on the board of directors.

The Downtown Organization awards a $500 scholarship annually to an outstanding high school student in her name. Miller was instrumental in other youth projects, such as the Skater’s Point skateboard park, the Twelve35 Teen Center and the city’s Youth Council.

“Harriet cared a great deal about her city and the people trusted her leadership,” Mayor Marty Blum said. “She loved the city of Santa Barbara. As mayor, she set a high standard of integrity and commitment to public service.”

Mayor-elect Helene Schneider said Miller was the person who first encouraged her to get involved in city politics. Miller first appointed Schneider as commissioner of the city’s Housing Authority.

“Her legacy is seen everywhere in this community,” said Schneider, adding that Miller was instrumental in bringing the lodging and environmental communities together to pass an initiative that directs 2 percent of hotel tax revenue toward creek and beach restoration. She also lauded Miller’s work in the arts and with the Youth Council.

“The city of Santa Barbara is a better place today because of her community and political participation and leadership,” Schneider said.

Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, said she was deeply saddened to hear the news of Miller’s passing.

“Harriet was a pioneer and great role model for many current and aspiring public servants, particularly for women in our community. She was a tremendous inspiration in my life,” Capps said. “Even after her work as an elected official concluded, Harriet provided a wonderful example to all of us as a remarkable civic leader who worked tirelessly well into retirement for the betterment of our community. The recent restoration of The Granada is just one example of these laudable efforts.

“Her dedication to our community will be sorely missed, but she leaves a rich legacy for us to remember her by.”

Hal Conklin, who had worked with Miller for about 30 years, said Miller had been sick for some time. When she made an appearance at City Councilwoman Iya Falcone’s announcement to run for mayor last February, Conklin said he was pleased but surprised.

Conklin said Miller’s tenure in city life had amounted to a lifetime of service.

“She epitomized what it meant to care for a community and lead a community,” he said. “She modeled the behavior she thought everyone else should exhibit.’‘

Conklin said he met Miller in the mid-1980s, while she was serving on the Housing Authority board and Conklin was on City Council.

Conklin later served as mayor while Miller was on the City Council. He appointed her vice mayor, and she assumed the seat when Conklin left office.

“I knew the city would be in good hands,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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