Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller dies, tributes pour in
Friends from Blaine County and around Montana are honoring Blaine County Commissioner Vic Miller, who died at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls Friday night.
Saddened Blaine County residents and law enforcement officials escorted Miller's body in a caravan from Lohman to Edwards Funeral Home in Chinook Saturday afternoon, as tributes mounted from friends in the Hi-Line and far away.
Miller was a musician as well as a politician, and one of his former bandmates was one of the first to honor him.
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Big Sandy resident, said he played with Miller before being elected to the U.S. Senate.
He quoted Miller as saying that with Tester's election, he had "'lost a trumpet player, but gained a senator.'
A former Harlem mayor, Miller was elected a commissioner several years ago, but lost his seat in redistricting after a federal civil rights lawsuit. But he won a seat back in 2006. A Democrat, Miller was unopposed for re-election in the Nov. 6 election.
Miller was a former executive director of of the Human Resources Development Council i District 4, which helps low-income Montanans in northern Montana gain the skills and opportunities needed to lead better lives, Tester said.
"He was very, very dedicated," said fellow Commissioner Frank DePriest of Chinook.. "Dedicated as a commissioner, as a musician at everything he did."
At the time of his death, he was chair of the commissioners and the public service officer. He served as the official spokesman for the county during recent flooding and fire events.
"This is a big loss for the people of Blaine County," DePriest said. "I don't know anybody who didn't know Vic Miller."
"When he walked into a room, everyone noticed he was there," he said.
DePriest said he learned a lot from Miller after his election two years ago.
"I relied on him," he said. "He taught me a lot."
Tester said Miller represented Montana values in his public service.
"Vic ended all of his voicemail greetings by saying, 'I'm here to serve you,'" Tester recalled. "He spent a lifetime doing just that, making Harlem a better community, Blaine a better county, and Montana a better state. Sharla and I have the entire Miller family in our thoughts and prayers."
Former State Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, who represented Blaine County when he was in the legislature, was emotional as he spoke of the loss.
"I'm really saddened by it," he said. "I find it hard to talk about it."
Musgrove said Miller was an expert in every part of the Blaine County and Montana state budgets, yet he remained a people person.
"We will be able to find somebody to take his role," Musgrove said. "But we will never replace him."
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but services will be held next Saturday at Harlem High School.
Hill County Republican Chair Andrew Brekke said he and his family also from Harlem, have been longtime friends with Miller and his family.
"We've been close friends forever," Brekke said. "This is very sad."
He said Miller has been facing health issues for the last year.
"He's in a better place," he said.
This is the second tragedy affecting top Blaine County officials in the last year.
In December, Undersheriff Patrick Pyette was struck and killed when hit by a car on Highway 2. Pyette was directing traffic at an accident scene.