On the Job with Julie Miller

A question-and-answer session with Southwest Health District Emergency Preparedness Director Julie Miller

Julie Miller, emergency preparedness director for the Southwest Public Health District, works to oversee the details of what would happen if a disaster strikes the area. She has been in the position for seven years. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

Julie Miller, emergency preparedness director for the Southwest Public Health District, works to oversee the details of what would happen if a disaster strikes the area. She has been in the position for seven years. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)

ALBANY — Julie Miller, the emergency preparedness director for the Southwest Public Health District, has the responsibility of working with various emergency-related agencies within the district’s 14-county area to be sure all the necessary resources are in place when disaster strikes. Including the other roles she has maintained as a public health official, she has put in more than 20 years of service.


• NAME: Julie Miller

POSITION: Emergency preparedness director, Southwest Public Health District

AGE: 50

TIME ON THE JOB: In current position for seven years

EDUCATION: A bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State University and a master’s degree from Albany State University, both in education.

FAMILY: One daughter

INTERESTING FACTS: The Albany native worked in the public health district’s early intervention program before going into her current position. She volunteers in her neighborhood, as well as with Theatre Albany and the Albany Museum of Art.

She spends a great deal of time processing the details of “What if.” If an emergency or disaster were to occur, her focus centers around what would be the response for public health and how public health would help its partner agencies. The public health response is dependent on the almost 400 employees from throughout the area’s county health departments and district programs.

In a recent sit down with Herald writer Jennifer Parks, Miller talks of her desire to be able to meet Noah, her love of gardening and the significance of preparing for a rainy day.

Q. What was your very first job?

A. At Valdosta State University Residence Life as a resident adviser, and eventually head resident.

Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first paycheck?

A. I went to an antique auction and bought a ring, with the whole paycheck.

Q.What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?

A. Recognizing their skills so projects and job tasks are assigned accordingly.

Q. What led you to your current position?

A. There was an opportunity. I had been in public health for several years, and the opportunity presented itself. This is my 24th year in public health.

Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?

A. I would have to say Area Two GEMA Coordinator Gary Rice. While the public health piece of the state emergency response planning is very small, he has an understanding for all 15 response requirements. He has and continues to help me with coordination and inclusion of public health into those functions.

He is a walking wealth of knowledge. He understands emergency response and he gets it from the big picture. He is a tremendous resource I call on often.

Q. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the recent recession?

A. When I’m asking public health staff to be a part of emergency response, I’m more cognizant of the fact some are facing tremendous obstacles because of the recession. For instance, people who would be doing typical response now have their extended family living with them … and they have these new people (in their homes) because of job loss.

Q. If you could turn back the clock on one aspect of technology — email, automated phone systems, cellphones, PDAs — what would it be?

A. Because we use every aspect of technology to put out alert notifications, they all play a role in sharing information. I don’t know if I would pull anything back, but I would place new parameters (to curtail) abuse or misuse.

Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?

A. My iPad.

Q. What is your favorite tradition?

A. I’m embedded in tradition. Probably Christmas — everything leading to it and the actual time with friends and family.

Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?

A. The last one I read was “Mrs. Kennedy and Me” by Clint Hill, written from the Secret Service point of view. I read a devotional book every day — a “start you day off right” kind of book.

Q. What is your morning routine?

A. I’m up at 5:15 a.m. to let the pets out. I start the coffee and fix breakfast, open up my iPad and follow a couple of tweets and national feed. I wake up the rest of the house, let the pets back in, get dressed and I’m at work at 8 a.m. I also read as I’m putting on my makeup.

Q. What famous person would you like to meet and why?

A. I would love to meet Noah, because based on everything I understand, he was probably the first emergency preparedness director. He was planning for a disaster. I would like to have a conversation with him.

Q. Favorite hobbies or activities outside of work?

A. I thoroughly enjoy working in yards; it is my therapy — and I love to travel.

Q. If you could take back one business decision you made in your career, what would it be?

A. I can’t think of anything, not in this career. But, as an adult, I wished I’d continued my education past my master’s. Once you start a family and a full-time job, it is just not as easy.

Q. Best and worst things about your job?

A. The best thing is the people and the partners. Without them, I could not do this job within 14 counties. They care about the community and they care about being safe.

The worst part has been motivating people around planning for disasters on a bright, pretty day … If you don’t take care of these things on a bright, pretty day, the ability to respond will be so limited. That is a fallout of society; we are a response mode society rather than a preparedness mode society. I think that is changing some.

Q. What was the most beneficial course you took in school?

A. I was an education major, so the (most beneficial) course I took was (during my) career — Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation. It allowed me to realize that what we do in the 14-county region is the same thing my counterparts would be doing (in other parts of the country).

Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?

A. I would be running a tour company with my family. Of course, I would see (that town) had an emergency preparedness plan before visiting.

Q. Where do you see yourself on the first anniversary of your retirement?

A. In one of two places — with my toes in the sand at Mexico Beach, Fla., or standing at the Place on the Pointe wrapping presents. No requirements, no deadlines or people to supervise — just wrap, tape and put a bow on.

Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?

A. People skills, the ability to encourage, guide, recognize and re-direct in a very positive, personal way. You have to be able to talk to people.

Q. What kind of music do you most like listening to?

A. Luke Bryan, of course.

Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken?

A. I’d have to say probably to the Virginia Beach, Va., area. It was the first time my daughter had flown and my mother traveled with us … and seeing the whole experience of a plane ride.

Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?

A. In any state or program receiving federal funding, it’s the documentation. Paperwork of requirements is forever increasing. With that goes the documentation for spending. Expenditures receive regular review.