Robert J. Miller has extensive experience as a Webster selectman, having served three terms from 2001 to 2010, when he was narrowly defeated. He tried to regain the seat last year, did not succeed, and is doing so again this year.
Why? "I enjoyed it," he said. "I loved meeting people and helping them figure out the process, send them in the right direction, to address their situation."
He admits to a reputation of being abrasive at times. "I don’t mind asking the hard questions," he said.
"The thing is, you don’t lie to people. I’m a firm believer in telling the truth. I got in trouble for that a few times. But people aren’t stupid."
"The last time, two weeks before the election, a rumor went around that I intended to clean house." Not so, he says. In fact, he thinks the current town administration has "weeded through quite a bit already."
"It’s not the job of the selectmen to micro-manage the town hall personnel," he continued, "The Board is there to set policy."
"I’ve kind of mellowed out. I’ve learned a lot in the last two years. I have to repackage myself, and need to adjust. I will take it down a notch."
"The ideas for what we should do don’t have to come from me. If you have a better idea, call me. I’m not cynical. The five members on the board will sometimes have five different opinions," he said, "but in the end come to the center. I enjoyed that and that’s why I miss it. And there’s a lot more I can do."
Mr. Miller currently serves on the Personnel Board and is the deputy town moderator, a job he says he really doesn’t care for. He was honored when Town Moderator Joseph Borski asked him to be his assistant, but he’s discovered that it really isn’t his thing. "Quite frankly, I’m not comfortable in that position," he said.
Mr. Miller has also served on the town’s Finance Committee and on the Police-Fire Station Committee, which was disbanded after the new Police Department project was approved.
His additional community involvement includes 14 years on the board of directors of Life-Skills Inc, the agency which provides services to disabled adults, and 25 years on the board of the Visiting Nurses’ Association of Southern Worcester County. Both of these organizations have their headquarters in Webster, he noted.
During his years as a selectman, Mr. Miller counts the Webster-Dudley Inter-Municipal Agreement as a major achievement. "It took five years, but we got it done." he said. "We talked with Oxford too, for four years, to run the sewer line up Rt. 12, but couldn’t come to agreement with them."
Mr. Miller says he’s in sync with the downtown redevelopment efforts and he’d like to do more. "There’s got to be more we can do to attract business to town." He doesn’t mean more TIFs, he said, which businesses take advantage of and then leave.
"I hear it said that we’re not business friendly. I recommend we come up with a media blitz or find a way to package the Town of Webster to attract more businesses. I’d go to Putnam and find out how they did it. They have people walking downtown, shopping and eating, day and night. I’d like to see that in Webster. There’s got to be more that we can do."
He would like to find ways to increase usage of the waste treatment facility, now operating only at about 50% capacity. He recalled how Cranston Print Works contributed $900,000 a year and Anglo Fabrics $500,000 just a few years ago. "We have to attract new business," he said, "and I don’t care if it’s a mom and pop or a large corporation. We have the location, just 20 minutes from the Mass. Pike, 20 minutes from Rt. 146 and a half hour from Rt. 84."
He would also take a look at some of the old mill buildings on North Main Street and Pearl Street to see if something could be done with those.
Mr. Miller is fourth-generation Webster. He bought the first of his three funeral homes in 1979, in Webster, and another that same year in Oxford. He purchased the third in Charlton in 1986. When asked how long he’d been interested in the funeral home business, he answered "since I was three or four years old," with a straight face.
His opinion on the billboard at Exit 2 on I-395? "I’m not going to say anything about that. Looking at it right now, Harrington has an ad up there for the new Emergency Room at Hubbard. The process was there to stop it. If proper procedures had been followed in the beginning, we wouldn’t be looking at it now. But personally it doesn’t bother me."
On the paddle wheel boat on the Lake: "It was way too much out of scope. If they decided to down-scale it, it might work. This is not Lake Winnipesaukee. We don’t have the fire and rescue capabilities if something went wrong-- the town might be liable."
Summing up, he said, "I’m the new old blood, with new old ideas."
- Wednesday, 18 April 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor