When Anthony Miller was elected chairman of the Legislative District 20 Republicans, which includes all of Ahwatukee Foothills, he became the first African-American in Arizona to lead a legislative district.
But his political path, from Democrat to rising star of the Arizona Republican Party, goes back to his youth.
Miller, 51, holds dear the regular Sunday conversations he had with his father, a former precinct captain on Chicago’s South Side. It was his father who exposed him to politics as a young man, taking him along to community meetings and introducing him to the people and issues he represented.
It was his father again who later showed him that political involvement could overcome racial barriers by helping to elect Harold Washington to be Chicago’s first African-American mayor, and as a fiscal conservative, that race wasn’t always an indication of one’s political beliefs.
Now, years later, Miller has found his own career in politics and achieved a personal and racial milestone when he was recently elected the first African-American legislative chairman for the Republican Party in Arizona. Still, he credits much of his achievement with the guidance his father gave him.
“We had some great conversations around election time,” Miller said. “If it wasn’t for my father’s generation I wouldn’t be able to sit here and talk with you today.”
Miller represents District 20, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills and portions of Tempe and Chandler. Having assumed his new position as chairman, Miller says he’ll concentrate on recruiting new members for the Republican Party with a special emphasis on young prospective politicians.
“It’s almost like being a teacher,” he said. “My goal is to recruit young people and support those who have an ambition for office.”
Miller was a young man himself and attending high school when he first became serious about politics. His family had moved from Chicago to Denver and he took the opportunity to become involved in the issues that were important to his new community. As a sophomore, he formed an organization for young Democrats. As a senior, he addressed a startling local rate of teen pregnancy with a marriage commission for youth.
It was when Miller was old enough to start his own business in Denver that he began to identify with the Republican Party. He became a proponent of free market economics and related strongly with Newt Gingrich’s then revolutionary Contract with America.
Miller continued to dedicate himself to local politics after moving from Denver to Phoenix. He began working as a recruiter for precinct committee members for District 20 and dedicated his spare time to the campaigns of fellow Republicans.
“A very wise man once told me what’s most important is the 10-mile radius in which you live,” he said.
Today, Miller also retains his position as the director of field operations for Friends of John McCain, which advocates for Sen. McCain’s re-election this year. The job, he says, can be difficult.
“Politics is very stressful because you like your candidate, you want them to succeed.”
Miller must also be cautious about managing the stress of his many jobs – he says he typically works 12 to 15 hours a day, six days a week – with a heart ailment that nearly killed him six years ago. But rather than free himself of some responsibility, he took on yet another position: founder and chief executive officer of the American Foundation for Cardiomyopathy based in Phoenix.
Asked about his plans for the future, Miller says he may one day run for a seat in Congress but, for now, he’s looking forward to meeting the needs of his local constituents.
“If I could be a champion of the people, that’s always been my dream. But I’m just excited to be breathing and a part of every morning.”
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Robert Oppermann is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a senior at Michigan State University and can be reached at email@example.com.