Moving to Washington, D.C., 30 years ago was Lorraine C. Miller’s first step toward making a difference as a public servant. Now, many steps later, she keeps the U.S. House of Representatives running.
Lorraine C. Miller (’75) stepped outside for her lunch break on a warm August afternoon and listened as the loud speakers from the ceremony at Fouts Field announced the graduates. She let out a cheer when she heard her name called, then went back to finish her shift at a Denton grocery store.
“The manager said he was short handed and I couldn’t have the day off,” Miller says.
By the time the Fort Worth native had worked her way through college, graduating with a degree in political science, it was evident that perseverance and dedication would define her life.
In 2007, Miller was sworn in as the 35th clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives — the first African American and only the third woman to serve as a House officer. The clerk manages the day-to-day operations of the House and oversees nine departments that employ nearly 300 people, from high school pages to computer support staff.
“It is truly an honor to serve in this nonpartisan position,” Miller says. “I do whatever it takes to keep the House members happy. My office does everything except put out the furniture and pay people.”
Miller says one of the biggest challenges of her job is to try to maintain the tradition of the office while bringing it into the 21st century.
“Melding new technology into the procedures is a necessity,” Miller says. “But we want to do it in a way that allows the history and authenticity of the office to be preserved.”
Before she became clerk, Miller served as senior advisor and director of intergovernmental relations for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She also worked for Speakers Jim Wright and Tom Foley.
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It was while she worked for Pelosi that the door opened for Miller to serve as clerk. She was suggesting candidates for Pelosi’s cabinet when the speaker asked if she was interested in any of the positions.
“It was wonderful to get such a positive reaction from her,” Miller says. “And here I am today.”
Miller says she attended North Texas because it was known as the place to study politics. She fondly remembers the spirited football games.
“I was at North Texas when Mean Joe Greene played. The games were a lot of fun,” she says.
After working for the Community Employment Training Act (CETA) in Texas, she got her first job in Washington, D.C., as an intern for the Maryland Legislature.
“Every day I drove by the avenue that had a full view of the Capitol,” Miller says. “I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Soon, Miller decided to pursue her longtime dream of working for Wright. After receiving many computer-generated rejection letters, she asked her state representative and city councilman if they would write letters of recommendation.
“They told me they’d do better than that,” Miller says. “They called and gave personal references. That’s how I got my foot in the door.”
Miller continues to work long hours on the Hill, but she says being a public servant is rewarding.
“At the end of the day, if I can look at the dome and feel I’ve helped move the ball down the field, then I feel good and know I’ve made a difference.”