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Former City of Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Former Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's Blog

Midge Miller: A Life Well Lived

April 20, 2009 12:25 PM

Midge Miller passed away last week at the age of 86. She lived a long and eventful life. She grew up in West Virginia and never quite lost the accent. She was a missionary in Japan when her first husband died in an accident. She and her second husband raised nine children together. One of them is the Co-Chair of the legislature's Joint Finance Committee and one of Wisconsin's most progressive legislators Sen. Mark Miller.

She was an assistant dean at the University of Wisconsin and, most famously, served as a State Representative from the West Side of Madison for many years. That's where I first got to know her. She was serving her last term in the Assembly when I was just starting out as a young legislative aide. One day she appeared before the committee I was staffing, and I still remember how gracious and good natured she was. She was easily the smartest person in the room and she came better prepared then anyone, but she was never condescending about it.

Later on, I continued to have fairly frequent contact with her when I went to work for her successor in the Assembly, Rep. Spencer Black. And in 2003, in a rare moment of questionable judgment, she supported me in my first run for mayor when a lot of people knew me as Dave who?

When I became mayor, she convinced me to join Mayors for Peace and to attend a meeting of that organization in New York in May of 2004. That trip opened my eyes to the ongoing issue of nuclear weapons and their potential disastrous use on cities all over the world. I continue to be a member of that organization to this day.

I continued to run into Midge from time to time at all kinds of events as she was active right up until the end. Most times I saw her she made it a point to tell me I was doing a good job or sometimes even "a swell job." Now, when most people say that I assume they're just being polite, or they're thinking I'm somebody else, or they're just misinformed.

But Midge Miller was the kind of person who was very well informed and who meant everything she said. If she disagreed with me she let me know it (She didn't always tell me I was doing a good job). So, when a person who had spent a lifetime as a courageous progressive and who had earned a reputation for integrity told me she thought I was doing okay, well, that always made me feel a little better about everything.

And now, after a life so well-lived and after leaving a legacy that will live on for many decades, I get to return the favor. Midge, you did a swell job.


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