Steve Miller steps down at the end of this month from the only job he’s ever wanted: Fairfield mayor.
Miller has been in elected office for 18 collective years since 1998 when he served his hometown’s Fourth Ward until 2007, and then for the past eight years as the city’s mayor. During his first tenure on Council, he served as acting mayor from May 2005 to December 2006 after former mayor Erick Cook resigned before he moved to South Carolina to be closer to family.
“All I’ve ever wanted to do is to serve my community, my home, Fairfield. That was it,” Miller said. “I honestly believe being mayor of my hometown, there’s just no greater honor to be had.”
“I honestly believe being mayor of my hometown, there's just no greater honor to be had."
- Fairfield Mayor Steve Miller, December 2021
While he can’t say what will be next for him in political and professional retirement, he can say the best thing he did as a member of Fairfield City Council was working on the Village Green Park development, which has become a focal point of the city’s downtown. But as mayor, it’s been the video series he championed after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I enjoyed making them tremendously, and I just hope that it made an impact or a difference for the people in those businesses,” he said of the Fairfield Business Spotlight video series that evolved from his Mayor’s Tour. “We really need to support local business, and I was really happy to play a part in that. Doing those videos was the most fun I’ve ever had being on council or as mayor.”
His love for his community was instilled during his childhood. He grew up in the city, graduated from Fairfield High School, and worked at Cincinnati Financial Corp. until he left the Fairfield-based insurance company in July.
“My dad (Jim Miller) instilled in me a sense of pride and community involvement,” said Miller. “He was a huge reason I’ve done what I’ve done. I kind of followed in his footsteps but in a different way.”
But Jim Miller wasn’t an elected official. He served on boards and commissions for nonprofits and charities. The mayor said he took the other path of community involvement.
“I wanted to be involved in local government and see what I could do that way,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot, met a lot of good people ... I know I’m really going to miss it. It was a lot of fun.”
But if it was up to Miller, he wouldn’t have had a political career. He attributes his time on City Council to his dad, who died in January, and the late former mayor Ron D’Epifanio, who died in January 2020. His last City Council meeting was emotionally difficult without his two mentors in the room.
“That’s the hardest part (about leaving office) is that I really miss those guys,” he said. “They were such an influence.”
At that last meeting, City Council honored the mayor with a proclamation, declaring Dec. 14, 2021 as Steve Miller Day in the city. Councilman Bill Woeste said he believed that was a first in the city, and an honor duly bestowed.
“No one’s more deserving of a proclamation,” Woeste said at last week’s council meeting. “For eight years you’ve been giving proclamations to those most worthy ... and the most notable people in the community, and you are certainly one of the most notable in the community.”
But he didn’t want to get into politics until D’Epfianio and his dad pushed him, and he said it was one of the best decisions in his life.
“They pushed me because they knew that’s what I needed because I was just apprehensive on any kind of change, and I can tell you this has been one of the greatest experiences in my life,” Miller said. “I’ll never forget it, and I’ll cherish the memories of everything we got to do and the ways we as a group have made Fairfield better.”
Michael D. Pitman has been a reporter in southwest Ohio since 1999. He's covered local governments in Warren and Butler counties, as well as state and national issues. He currently covers the cities of Fairfield and Hamilton.