Anyone who has worked in local government in the Burns Lake region recognizes Bill Miller and his contributions to the community. And last month his efforts were recognized on a wider level when he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) convention in Williams Lake.
“I had an inkling something was going on because they really pushed me to make sure I was there. I was doing a presentation the next day as part of a panel on wildfires,” Miller told Lakes District News.
The longtime Burns Lake resident was modest as he described how he felt when they presented him with the award at the NCLGA banquet.
“It’s a bit humbling when you’re elected to represent your constituents. But it’s more humbling to be awarded or given those accolades from your peers with whom you’ve worked for the last 10 years.”
His service in local government has been intensive and goes back more than a decade.
In 2008 he was elected as director of Area B with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) for a three-year term. Following that he successfully ran for the top spot and served as chair for seven years.
With a lot of energy and vision for the region, Miller was also the co-chair of the Resource Benefits Alliance (RBA) for three years, and chair of the Omineca Beetle Action Coalition for four years.
“We dealt with regional issues around the preparatory work around the Annual Allowable Cut reduction because of the beetle epidemic,” he said.
Filling out his service to the business community, Miller was vice-chair of Nadina Community Futures (NCF) and a board member of Lakes Economic Development as well.
NCF is part of Community Futures in western Canada and aims to boost the rural economy through support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Out of all that hard work, Miller is proud that the RBA managed to sit down with the provincial government with the aim of securing an agreement on sharing revenues from resource development in the north. He’s also proud that the Chinook Community Forest was formed in partnership with the RDBN, the Village of Burns Lake and the six local First Nations.
But he had a lot more to say about the achievements of the Highway 16 action plan – for trips between Prince George and Prince Rupert – and the buses that travel to the small communities of the region.
“It was politically challenging because there were so many parties involved. There was so much need but there was so much potential liability to the taxpayers. It was careful ground we had to walk,” he explained.
“We had to negotiate the best deal possible out of the province. Convincing people that it was actually a needed service was a tough job. People in the north are very independent and most drive a vehicle. But there’s a large chunk of the population that can’t afford a vehicle or doesn’t have a license. And we knew Greyhound services were deteriorating to the point where they weren’t usable anymore.”
Amidst the successes it hasn’t always been a smooth ride for Miller, and he has faced difficulties both professional and personal.
“The biggest [challenge] has probably been higher level government downloading of responsibility and service provision, without really significant consultation and without revenue. More and more burden being shifted to local government and local community taxpayers,” he said, adding that the slow pace at which governments move tested his patience.
“It [also] became a huge time challenge. It became more than a full time job. And they’re mostly volunteer positions, though you get some remuneration but it certainly doesn’t pay for your time. It also challenges you for time with your family. That’s one of the reasons why I didn’t run for RDBN again was because of the time challenge. I have to say that I’m feeling better now that I’m back in the private sector.”
He is more able than before to focus on his farm equipment repair company P&B Mechanic, which he has been operating since 1987.
Someone who has contributed so much to the region deserves a rest, but while Miller has scaled back his community work, he still serves as chair of the advisory committee for the College of New Caledonia.
“It was quite an honour to get this award but it’s also an honour to be able to serve your community. Even given all the challenges I wouldn’t have traded a minute of it.”