McLennan’s first Black commissioner encourages others to get involved
In honor of Black History Month, we are featuring interviews with local Black community leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media. The students asked questions about what the leaders love about Waco, and we are excited to share their responses with you this month.
By Lauren Boyt
McLennan County Commissioner Pat Miller has a unique view of the Waco community, as she has served on several local committees for over 20 years. Being the first Black woman to serve on the commissioners court, the Precinct 2 representative knows a few things about the ins and outs of local government and its importance in the lives of everyday people.
With 23 years of experience, Miller easily won her position on the court back in 2018. She said she knew not many people were as qualified as her, which gave her the confidence to run.
Miller said the commissioners court “has always been a gentlemen’s club.” There are 254 counties in Texas, with 1,014 commissioners total. At the time Miller ran, only 50 women and six Black women served in the role statewide.
Miller has paved the way for not just women, but specifically Black women in local government.
“What I hope that my term on the court says to young women is that the ceiling is only as high as your talents and your vision. Nothing out there is off limits or out of reach,” Miller said.
Miller has served on many councils, including Live Oak Classical School Community Outreach and Engagement Committee, Community Race Relations Coalition Board of Directors, the Eastern Waco Development Corp. Board of Directors, Compassion Ministries Board of Directors, United Way Allocations Committee, and the Women’s Resource Center Advisory Board.
The commissioner has noticed county government to be unknown to many citizens, which is interesting to her because, “it touches our day-to-day lives in ways people don’t really realize,” Miller said.
Miller strongly recommends watching and attending city council, commissioners court, and school board meetings as a way to begin involvement in local government. Miller said those three areas of government “touch your lives in all ways.”
“To really be in tune with what is happening to you and your children, you need to at a minimum watch [the meetings] on TV,” Miller said.
Watching and attending meetings, volunteering to be on commissions and taking advantage of connections is the best way to get involved in local government. Miller said attending these meetings might pique one’s interests in a specific area. One can then reach out to the person in charge of that commission or coalition to ask for ways to be involved.
“We all crave volunteers, especially young volunteers to start serving and working in some capacity with us. It won’t be hard to get pulled in as long as you avail yourself,” Miller said.
Reminiscing on the personal effect of her time in local government so far, Miller said, “a lot of my long-lasting alliances have come through a period of crisis that working through has evolved into long-lasting friendships.”
Miller loves her Waco community and is dedicated to serving it. She has enjoyed friendships that have lasted decades.
Waco is “kind of like coming home to grandma; it’s welcoming, it’s warm, and it’s nurturing for all intents and purposes,” Miller said. “Anyone that comes to Waco should get the sense that Waco wants you to succeed.”
Lauren Boyt is a sophomore public relations major at Baylor University from Midland.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org.