WhoWhatWhenWhereWhy & How...
Pam Miller is a regular woman-about-town here in Savannah and is planning on adding even more to her full plate of activities by running for an Alderman seat within the City of Savannah. Pam will run as the first openly gay individual to contend for the seat. Such a commitiment to run for a high-profile city office keeps her in constant motion it seems, but I did have a chance to correspond with Pam and learn a little bit about what makes this girl tick. Her bubbly personality, non-stop smile, and sincere but direct manner has won her the accolades and support of a vibrant and diverse crowd of Savannahians.
She grew up the oldest of 3 children in South Florida. Pam was a smart kid and was always involved and trying to get the neighbor kids together for one activity or another. Seems her leadership and organizational skills were honed at a very young age. “ I was the leader of the pack so to speak… an odd mix of tomboy and fashionista, a characteristic that is still with me today,” she said.
Pam grew up in the 60’s when there were no positive role models for gay people. Most attention was on the Vietnam War. “The thought of all of those young men being killed had teenagers like me involved in protests, rallies and sit-ins,” Pam recalled.
The Civil Rights Movement had reached a huge victory; Women’s issues were at the forefront. “ We marched about everything….wanting to set the world right and give peace a chance! Our mantra was 'if not now when, if not me who?!' I’ve never stopped living by that principle! I first marched for human rights in 1977 in an anti Anita Bryant parade in Coconut Grove. From that march grew one of the largest gay pride festivals in the world!” she added.
Before getting into our interview here, this is a brief overview of the positions, awards and accolades that this red-headed dynamo with an electric smile has garnered.
On the national scene, Pam was a founding member of the National Campaign for Tolerance and her name has been placed on the Wall of Tolerance in Birmingham, AL in recognition of her work in human and civil rights. No one less than Rosa Parks signed her certificate of recognition!
She also served on the Ryan White Committee and was involved with the Girl Scouts and Brownies for many years. Closer to home, Pam was the co-chair of First City Network, FCN, Georgia's oldest LGBT organization for 8 years and the first recipient of Savannah Pride's "Lifetime Achievement Award".
Pam led the effort to create the City of Savannah's Traffic Calming program, the standard by which all of Savannah's neighborhood traffic concerns are measured.
She co-founded, along with an openly gay police officer, the Metro Police and Gay Community Collaborative, an advisory board and resource program that assures that SCMPD officers give LGBT victims the same respect and non-judgmental treatment as any other citizen of Savannah. This program evolved after numerous complaints that the Police Department were prejudiced against LGBT victims. Pam has also volunteered with a number of local organizations including Chatham Emergency Management Agency.
Pam also co-founded Citizen's for a Safe Secure Savannah, a grass roots organization whose goal is to prevent large energy industry from transporting hazardous and potentially dangerous materials through the streets of Savannah. Pam is the President of the Kensington Park Community Association, which includes the neighborhoods of both Kensington Park and Groveland; and she is the past President of the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless. Pam has also volunteered with a number of local organizations including the Chatham Emergency Management Agency.
Whewww…..Can we take a breather here? With all those balls up in the air you have to wonder what keeps this girl going? I posed a few questions to get a clearer idea of just WHO IS this Pam Miller that we all keep hearing about?
Who is a remarkable public figure whose ideals, beliefs, etc you would like
Has to be Rosa Parks. She had an opportunity to stand up as a citizen and took it and from there used her voice to empower others. It is in being provided that moment..recognizing it…and acting on it that makes heroes of ordinary people. Unfortunately, I never had that singular opportunity. My work would be more of a continuum of efforts. Who knew that 40 years or so later, I would be given a plaque signed by none other than Ms. Rosa Parks, inducting me as a founding member of the National Wall of Tolerance for my work in civil and human rights.
What is your favorite bit of trivia or fact-oid about Savannah?
I came to Savannah as the first CEO of the mental health collaborative. One of my responsibilities was to assure that in the case of a disaster, the sheltered mentally ill were adequately notified and taken to safety. Imagine having to evacuate them all during Hurricane Floyd in 1999! Only later did I find out that New York City has a higher probability of being hit by a hurricane than Savannah does! Watch out NYC!
When did the thought come to you that you would like to run as Savannah’s first openly gay Alderwoman?
I actually started thinking about running for office shortly after the last election. I never even gave the “openly gay” a second thought. I have been out in the media locally for so long that I couldn’t be silent about it anyway. I think it’s important, win or lose, that I am my authentic self. Savannah will know that if I am willing to be this transparent, when I might have done otherwise, is a good indicator that there will be no secrets when I’m on council.
Where would you like to see the City of Savannah head in regards to its dialogue with the LGBT community here?
Savannah really has been slowly moving in the right direction. In 1999, they passed a resolution adding sexual orientation to the anti-discrimination policy and they passed the domestic partner benefit, but I still feel there needs to a better dialogue between the city and the LGBT community.
Why do you think so many gay folks are drawn to Savannah and the
I think LGBT folks are drawn here for the same reasons straight folks are drawn here. Savannah is one of the loveliest cities I’ve ever been in! I won’t fall for the old stereotypical gags about a Victorian fixer-upper, but we do have an abundance of charm that everyone can tap into.
How do you think we can draw more LGBT folks here in the future?
Savannah has a gay culture and infrasystem that rivals cities twice our size. First City Network, the oldest LGBT organization in Georgia, has been here for well over 25 years providing social opportunities for folks to get to know each other. We have local chapters of Georgia Equality, P-Flag and Mega Families. Our universities all have gay/straight alliances, and we have one of the best youth support programs with Stand Out Youth. We also have the LGBT community and Metro police collaborative that I co-founded 4 years ago that assures equal and fair treatment to the LGBT community by the police department. What we’ve not done is a stellar job of is letting folks know about these wonderful programs here in Savannah. Our Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Councils should be looking at places like NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco to showcase Savannah to. It’s a better, quieter, and in many cases, much warmer climate here, so why not promote it? I think if more people had the opportunity to stroll our squares, eat our Southern cookin, and meet the nicest people in the world…they’d all be Savannah bound!
When asked to summarize, in a nutshell, just what a good day would be for her, it included some highlights. “……I have a menagerie, a bad cat, two yorkies and a dachshund, a Blue and Gold McCaw, and a Blue Front Amazon parrot! I love to shop, garden and read. I belong to a book club. I enjoy socializing with friends and frequently have small to large house parties. I was known for my Halloween parties and elaborate decorations both inside and out. I am an excellent cook (so they tell me). I go to church at Asbury, and Ginger and I got married in P-Town in June after being together fifteen years. I have two daughters, Christina and Sharon, and four grandchildren. I have amazing family and friends, and that is the only reason I am able to run my campaign.” she ended, with a wink.
Sounds like a fine nutshell to be in and we wish Pam Miller all the best in her run to be Savannah’s first openly gay Alderwoman. You go, Girl!
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