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.