How’s your first year been?  “Busy and event­ful,” Tim Miller responds. He was appoint­ed a year ago as Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of West Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices, this mul­ti-ser­vice Agency, which was found­ed in 1975 to sup­port the under-served peo­ple of West­ern Sono­ma Coun­ty.

   Tim has found in the West Coun­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly the low­er Riv­er Area, “peo­ple believe we can solve our own prob­lems. There is a min­i­mum of gov­ern­ment out here. Peo­ple know they have to be involved to solve our prob­lems.  And it mat­ters for us to engage with the com­mu­ni­ty. The most impor­tant thing is to be rel­e­vant.  How do we become more rel­e­vant? Only if we are meet­ing peo­ples’ needs.”

   West Coun­ty Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices, has a staff of 26 full and part-time work­ers, a $1.6 mil­lion bud­get, pro­vid­ing hous­ing, food, employ­ment, coun­sel­ing ser­vices, as well as qual­i­ty of life pro­grams, for seniors, low income adults, at-risk youth and the home­less. The Agency has had a dis­tin­guished his­to­ry of ser­vice. Tim has hon­ored that his­to­ry and those who were respon­si­ble for it while mov­ing the Agency on and keep­ing it rel­e­vant to the com­mu­ni­ty.

   He’s had con­sid­er­able expe­ri­ence enter­ing new sit­u­a­tions and tak­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for their devel­op­ment.  After grad­u­at­ing from col­lege in polit­i­cal sci­ence, he joined the Peace Corp in the Philip­pines, lived in a bam­boo hut, and worked in agri­cul­tur­al and forestry exten­sion.  Back to the states for Grad­u­ate School, he earned a Mas­ters Degree in Inter­na­tion­al Pol­i­cy, while also spend­ing a year in Chi­na.  

   That expe­ri­ence led to employ­ment with the ACDI/VOCA (Agri­cul­tur­al Coop­er­a­tive Devel­op­ment International/Volunteers in Over­seas Coop­er­a­tive Assis­tance). At the time of the break-up of the Sovi­et Union, he moved, as a Region­al Direc­tor, to Azer­bai­jan, and for two and a half years helped farm­ers tran­si­tion from employ­ment in Sovi­et farm fac­to­ries to own­ing their own sus­tain­able farms and small scale enter­pris­es

   Return­ing to the States, Tim worked for thir­teen years with the Red Cross, the last eight years as Region­al Direc­tor of the Red Cross for the west­ern half of north­ern Cal­i­for­nia from Marin Coun­ty to the Ore­gon bor­der.  His juris­dic­tion includ­ed eight Coun­ties and he served in logis­tics and man­age­ment on sev­er­al nation­al dis­as­ter oper­a­tions.

   In 2015, Tim joined the Luther­an World Relief (LWR). As Direc­tor of Relief and Recov­ery, he went to the Philip­pines, which had lost 10,000 res­i­dents in the 2014 Haiyan Typhoon, the strongest typhoon to ever make land­fall.  LWR and its com­mu­ni­ty part­ners rebuilt farm enter­pris­es, fish farms and, with the help of the Philippine’s Habi­tat for Human­i­ty, built 400 homes in north­ern Leyte.

   That work must have helped him when, in the midst of his first year with WCCS, the heavy Feb­ru­ary rains caused the roof to col­lapse on the WCCS’ offices.  A WCCS board mem­ber found tem­po­rary office space, and Tim and his staff moved in and were oper­a­tional with­in a few days.

   There’s an ease in the way Tim entered and has led the Agency in his first year here.  Despite the dif­fi­cul­ties of work­ing from tem­po­rary crowd­ed and incon­ve­nient quar­ters, the staff projects the good cheer and help­ful spir­it that moti­vates them, and also reflects Tim’s approach to the work. It’s a good-heart­ed fam­i­ly.  “I enjoy this kind of work,” he says with a shrug and smile.