John Miller

Alderman John Miller listens to testimony at a city council meeting in November of 2018. To his right is then-city clerk Pamela Harlan.

Monticello is mourning a beloved public servant — a longtime former police chief and current city council member — who passed away suddenly at age 66.

John Miller died on Wednesday, two days after the two-term council member attended the swearing-in ceremony of the new members.

Monticello Mayor Larry Stoner was still reeling Thursday from the shock of the news, which he heard from Mr. Miller’s family.

“He was one of the last people I spoke to Monday night after our meeting,” Stoner said. “He was looking forward to this new council, as was I, so this is heartbreaking.”

A native of Cisco and a 1971 Monticello High School graduate, Mr. Miller followed up a 34-year career in law enforcement by being elected to the city council in 2013. He won a second four-year term serving Ward 4 in 2017.

“I’ve known him since he became police chief in 1995, and he was a good friend,” Stoner said. “He was a team player.”

Mr. Miller served as a military police officer in the Army reserves for 26 years, spending 15 of those in an instructor role.

He was a Decatur police officer and Argenta police chief prior to being hired in Monticello, where he was named chief in October 1995. He held that post until retiring nearly 17 years later.

Gail Jones advocated for his hire as a city council member, and later worked with him in parking enforcement with the police department, a job she continues to perform.

“John wasn’t just a boss. He was a friend,” said Jones, whose husband Terry also worked for Mr. Miller. “John was community-minded, and you couldn’t ask for a better person. Once you were friends with him, he never forgot you.”

Jones also remembers the former chief’s forward thinking, noting he was the first to make sure defibrillators were available in each squad car. She also recalls his involvement with the DARE program.

On a more personal note, she and Terry were in attendance when John and Karen Miller renewed their wedding vows on their 25th anniversary.

Upon retiring as police chief, Mr. Miller said that “it has been an honor for me to have served the Monticello community for the past 17 years. I am most proud of the fine men and women employees, past and present, who work hard every day to protect and serve the Monticello community. ... The Monticello-Cisco area is my hometown. Karen and I have raised our family here and are retiring right here in Monticello. I know the citizens of Monticello appreciate what a great community we have because so many have told me so.”

Mr. Miller and his wife served on several missions trips, including ones through Samaritan’s Purse. They also enjoyed long bicycle rides through the country in recent years.