West Shore sage Miller hits 39th year with Meeks Bay Fire
Special to the Sierra Sun
TAHOMA — Ed Miller has lived on Lake Tahoe’s West Shore for over 40 years.
This March marked Miller’s 39th year on the Meeks Bay Fire Protection District board and for 37 of those years, he served as the board’s president.
Miller is well known on the West Shore for his continued passion in serving the community.
Miller moved to Tahoma in 1978 and before that he was living on the North Shore at Carnelian Bay two years prior. Before settling in the basin, Miller traveled around the country with his wife, Lolly Kupec, after leaving their home across the nation in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Miller grew up a block away from a fire station in Manhattan, which is evident through his slight East Coast accent, and developed an interest for firefighting in prep school after his dormitory burned.
He would often visit the station with his mother and always heard the trucks drive by by with sirens blaring.
At 18 years old, Miller got involved in investigative journalism just outside of New York City. Not only was Miller reporting on hard hitting topics like the Vietnam War and the Drug Enforcement Agency, but according to Miller, he was responsible for bringing nearly 1,400 sailors home during the Vietnam War.
Miller’s friends were writing to him while they were aboard the USS Boston, a ship converted to be a missile frigate for Vietnam. His friends were telling him that the ship they were aboard was nearly falling apart and even went into battle with only two of the four boilers intact. Miller was a radio news reporter at the time.
Upon hearing of the problems with the ship, Miller was having lunch with Rep. Richard Ottinger, who had Robert F. Kennedy’s seat after his assassination. Miller told him about the ship, and also sent a telegram to Navy Secretary John Chafee. That started a congressional investigation and the decommissioning of the ship.
“It blew me away,” he said. “If an 18-year-old from outside New York can bring 1,400 sailors home, then why can’t Walter Cronkite end the war?”
He attended college in Norwalk, and years later, after meeting Lolly in college, the multi-national company where she was design director, moved the couple to Cape Cod where Miller became news director for WCOD-FM.
He then joined Harwich FD and became an EMT. That’s when Miller also worked for the Rescue Squad in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which he described as a “tough town” where he used his medical experience first hand.
Two years after moving to the Cape, the Millers left and traveled across the country for four months with an Alaskan Malamute and a Manx cat. The couple stayed with family at a commune in Berkeley and visited friends in Tahoe City.
“We loved Tahoe and moved here,” Miller said.
Miller then tested for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District. After scoring third out of 150 applicants, Miller was offered the position months later, but he declined after already starting his own business.
In 1977, Miller and Kupec opened a consulting firm called Wild West Communications on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe, where Miller did voice-overs for radio and television, political campaigns, advertising, conducted study groups, and was a writer among other things.
A year later, Miller was called back to his roots after being recruited for Meeks Bay Fire Protection District as a volunteer lieutenant and he filled a vacancy on the board where only two years later he was elected president.
“It was a small fire district at the lake — it still is but it has a great deal of responsibility,” he said.
In comparison to the stations Miller worked at back east, Meeks Bay is extremely small, but he says that’s why the district is able to give a personal touch when they respond to calls.
About 35 years ago, Miller was appointed to the El Dorado County Civil Service Commission, which he has chaired since his second year, but his passion for serving the public didn’t stop there.
Along with holding public office, Miller produced the Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park for 15 years and Music at Sand Harbor Festival for 10 years. He also emceed concerts at Commons Beach for 10 years.
Miller was a former board member for Sierra Family Services, and for Tahoe Women’s Services, and for Truckee-Tahoe Alliance of Musical Artists and was founding president of Tahoe Actors’ Theatre.
Miller also was the first executive director for the Tahoe City Downtown Association.
Miller served as chairman for the Tahoe Re-Green Citizens’ Committee, Placer County Cable Television Advisory Committee and was a founding member of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
He was a member of the Fire Districts Association of California and was even a volunteer co-pilot for the American Medical Flight Support Team known as Angel Flight.
Miller is also a narrator and voice talent for both radio and television. He won the Silver Microphone Award for best use of humor in a radio commercial in the US during his series of commercials for a chain of restaurants in Sacramento.
Miller also served as a public information officer for the NTFPD from 1993 to 2005.
Being a small, special district, Meeks Bay went through a transformation about seven years ago when Chief John Pang retired after serving 20 years.
Rather than deciding on a new chief, Meeks Bay Fire entered into a service contract with North Tahoe Fire, but remains an independent special district. Both agencies rotate personnel through different fire houses and have received training of each other’s apparatus. Miller, of course, was present for this adaptation.
“They work together seamlessly,” Miller said.
The fire chief for North Tahoe Fire and chief of Meeks Bay Fire, Steve Leighton, has worked closely with Miller.
“It’s an honor and privilege to work with President Miller,“ Leighton said. “I have appreciated his wealth of institutional knowledge and experiences that he has been willing to share with me regarding Meeks Bay Fire. I appreciate the time and commitment that he provides to Meeks Bay Fire and I want to personally thank him for always being willing to share valuable information with me in order to help me make sound decisions on behalf of the district.”
Talking to Miller, his passion for the community is evident. He says that one thing special about residing and working on the West Shore is the constant support within the community.
“If someone gets sick, there will be a line of people to help,” Miller said. “In the heart of the recession in 2009, we asked the community for an additional $195 as a special tax and they passed it by over 70%.”
The first year after the tax passed, the board only assessed $135, and Miller said that at the next pancake breakfast residents were coming up to him handing him $60 saying they wanted, and agreed, to pay the original amount.
“That is the kind of support we get from our community,” he said.
Miller said that he loves that in his community he can make big changes.
Growing up in New York City, Miller says that’s a bit more challenging, but on the West Shore, when Miller sees a need in the community, he works to fix it.
“We are easily forgotten, not by malice but geographically,” he said. “It is important to me personally that our folks in the community get recognized.”
Miller explained that at times he’s been called on a Sunday night about residents not getting their roads plowed and by the next day, he will get a hold of the county and make sure they don’t forget about the West Shore.
“I want people to know they can rely on me,” Miller said. “I may not be able to make changes federally but I am able to help make this community a better place to live.”
Since Miller started at Meeks Bay Fire, there have been several leaders and major changes, but one thing remains a constant nearly 40 years later, Edward Miller.
“I wouldn’t be doing this for 39 years if I didn’t love it,” Miller said. “I love this town and just everything about it.”
Cheyanne Neuffer is a reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun.
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