COSHOCTON - Kevin Miller admits to not being a career politician and he doesn't much like being called Mr. Representative. Simply Kevin is fine with him.
The resident of Franklin Township in Licking County became the representative for the 72nd District in the Ohio House of Representatives on June 28. He was appointed to replace the ousted Larry Householder, who has a federal indictment related to a bribery scheme hanging over his head. He has pled not guilty to charges and maintains his innocence.
Miller would rather focus on the future than the past and serve a constituency that has felt underrepresented since the case against Householder and associates came to light last summer.
Miller recently visited with representatives of the Coshocton County Commissioners, Coshocton County Sheriff's Office and Coshocton County Career Center. He plans to visit with more entities in the future and wants to be seen regularly in the county.
Householder won re-election in the fall general election, but only faced four write-in. He reclaimed office, but wasn't placed on any committees and seemingly had little power to lobby for his district, which covers Perry and Coshocton counties and part of Licking County.
Many leaders in the region expressed their displeasure. This included a letter signed by 25 officials holding public office in Coshocton County sent to Speaker Bob Cupp in February. The house in June invoked a provision not used in 167 years to alleviate Householder of his duties.
Miller was one of 19 candidates to apply for the role and was named the successor on June 25. The Republican most recently served as a legislative liaison for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, drafting legislation and keeping troopers apprised of what was happening at the Ohio Legislature. He previously served as commander of the Granville Post.
Miller, a native of Swanton, graduated from Ohio State University and completed a leadership course for law enforcement executives at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Miller has been married to his high school sweetheart, Megan, for 21 years and they have two children in college.
"It was a great opportunity for me to make a difference. It arose and I said 'why not me," Miller said on applying to become a representative. "This is my job, this is what I'll be doing. This is what I plan to devote my time and energy to, being out in the communities and learning the communities."
Miller admits to not having the best internet connection where he lives and the importance of online access really came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was floored by information from Commissioner Gary Fischer that about 35% of Coshocton County lacks reliable online access, this includes 40% of students in Ridgewood and River View school districts. Commissioners recently pledged $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to expand local broadband.
"That's something I want to continue to monitor and make sure we're getting funding for those types of issues, because I think that's important," Miller said. "People want to talk about leveling the playing field, it's certainly not level when everyone doesn't have access to those resources."
The Columbus to Pittsburgh Corridor project is a concern of Commissioner Rick Conkle and Coshocton Port Authority Director Tiffany Swigert. Both see it as having a huge economic impact on the area. Needed is expanding 47 miles of road from two lanes to four lanes and maneuvering around Tappan Lake.
In 2011, a study by the Ohio Department of Transportation said completion of the corridor would only create 55 new jobs. However, the Columbus-Pittsburgh Corridor Association (CPCA) said more than $5 billion in private investments has led to the creation of 9,500 jobs in the six-county region since that time. Swigert would like Miller's help in acquiring funding for a new feasibility study.
"Obviously, it was laughable between what that feasibility study produced and what actually happened. There's a huge, huge effort still to get that study redone," Swigert said. "We can see how absolutely impactful (the project is) to our entire region and what that would open up. We truly think it's 'build it and they will come' when it comes to jobs."
Another issue Miller wants to explore more, that Swigert also supports, is funding for vocational schools and training in trades. It's one reason Miller wanted to meet with officials at the career center. While he has a degree from OSU and his children are in college now, he knows that's not the best path for everyone.
"There's a lot of great jobs and money to be made in trades. We need to get rid of the stigma that people seem to have that if you don't go to college it's not as prestigious. That's not true, that's a false narrative," Miller said. "We're starting to see that pendulum swing a little bit."
Miller said he really only needed one thing from locals and that was to be told what the problems are he needs to tackle.
"I have my interests and my priorities, but, ultimately, the priorities are going to be of the people of Coshocton, the people of Perry County and the people of Licking County," Miller said. "I work for you folks, so your priorities have to be my priorities. The only way I'm going to know that is if people are connecting and filling me in."