By Victoria Middleton
Canadian County District Judge Gary E. Miller has announced his retirement and will be leaving the bench this fall.
Bill Alexander, center director for the Gary E. Miller Children’s Justice Center, confirmed the news on Friday, saying the judge made the announcement sometime that week.
“I haven’t heard it from his own mouth, but yes, I can confirm it,” Alexander said.
The judge was unable to be reached for comment as his office is closed June 23 through July 5, according to his bailiff’s voicemail message.
Miller has served as the county’s District Judge since February 2010 when Gov. Brad Henry appointed him. He was then elected to a full term in November 2010 and re-elected in 2014 after running unopposed.
The judge’s term is not set to expire until Jan. 13, 2019.
Miller first joined the court as an Associate District Judge in 1993 until 2008 when he stepped down to join the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as the Children and Family Services Director from 2008 to 2010.
Miller was a private practice attorney from 1978 to 1993, then served as city attorney for the City of Yukon in 1993.
A man with a vision
Alexander expressed his gratitude to Miller for his efforts in the late 1990s to create the county’s Children Justice Center, named in his honor.
“I think he is the one person who is the most responsible for this facility being here. His vision was to have something different in Canadian County,” Alexander said. “It is unique in the state of Oklahoma to help kids and families, and on top of that, his tireless work is the reason why we are here today.
“What a great legacy he has and the things he has put together. We didn’t have a clue of his vision … it’s a pipe dream he made a reality.”
Alexander said he’s been told, that before his arrival at the center, Miller went to every door and visited every civic club in the county to tell people why a juvenile center was needed.
“He got people on his side,” Alexander said. “It was an amazing amount of work and he was the main one that made this place happen.”
The director said juvenile centers in the state are hurting right now, along with other agencies due to the budget shortfall.
“How smart that he saw in 1995 what was going on and that we don’t need to wait and depend on the state when it comes to taking care of these kids,” Alexander said. “We can do this ourselves, he thought.”
Alexander said that juvenile centers across the state are not in the same position as Canadian County, which has a dedicated sales tax to fund its juvenile center.
“Think of all the counties that don’t have what we have. There is a push to close or cut back juvenile detention centers across the state because of the money.”
“He had a vision, he saw what was going to happen but probably did not even dream it could happen and we are in a position to survive,” Alexander said about Miller.
Alexander said the center’s funding from the state Office of Juvenile Affairs could be in jeopardy. County commissioners have already approved picking up the tab for school districts to utilize the center’s Alternate Education School at no charge starting this coming school year. School districts had been paying for this service using earmarked funds they receive from the state Department of Education.
Alexander said Rep. Leslie Osborn is working to help the center, saying she has called for an interim study this summer.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Hesse commented on Miller’s departure as well. “I’ve had the pleasure of working in his courtroom for almost 15 years.”
Hesse added that the judge has always stood up for his beliefs in his courtroom and said Miller’s leaving is a loss for Canadian County.