A Voice of the People

Feb 24, 2022

During Black History Month, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is profiling pioneering Black leaders past and present who have made a mark on our community. Throughout the month, we’ll be sharing stories of these important figures and showcasing their work to make Fairfield County a stronger, more equitable community.

State Sen. Patricia Billie Miller has spent her lifetime being the first.

As the oldest of seven children, she was the first to begin primary school and experience all of life’s rites of passage. She was the first Black student to graduate from her private secondary school and was the first in her family to graduate from college.

In 2009, she became the first person of color to represent Stamford in the Connecticut House of Representatives and in 2021 she was elected to the State Senate representing parts of Stamford and Darien.

“I’m used to being the first,” Miller says. “But it’s not something I take lightly.”

Childhood Lessons
Miller has called Fairfield County home since she was in elementary school — but she remembers clearly the transition she experienced when her family moved to Stamford at the age of 9.

Until then, she had been raised in the segregated South.

She recalls the positive memories she had growing up in Columbia, S.C., where there was a great sense of community and pride among her Black neighbors.

“Everything I experienced was Black,” she said. “The doctors, businesses, schools, and teachers were Black, so I grew up believing that I could be whatever I wanted to be — no matter what others told me.”

That belief was reinforced by her mother and the teachers who recognized her talent and her constant willingness to learn.

But when her family moved to the more integrated world of Stamford, the atmosphere changed dramatically.

“The frame of mind around education was different,” she said. “Back in the South, the sky was the limit. Then I moved to the North, where I was often told that I wasn’t smart enough or I couldn’t do it.”

This experience, however, only fueled her drive to succeed — and it became the impetus for becoming an advocate for others.

A Career of Service
After graduating from Moravian College in Pennsylvania with a degree in mathematics, Miller moved back to Fairfield County and took a temporary role with the Stamford Housing Authority.

There, she noticed that her own life experiences were not too different from those she was working to help.

That temporary position soon became a professional passion — launching what became an almost 30-year career in affordable housing.

But Miller wanted to do more for individuals, families, and people of color on a much larger scale, so she quickly grabbed the opportunity when a city representative from her district knocked on her door and asked if Miller would serve as her replacement on Stamford’s Board of Representatives.

Soon, she was asked to run for statewide office as the representative for Stamford’s 145th District. Feeling excited, Miller knew that she was walking into her calling.

“This journey has never been about me,” she said. “It has always been about the people. And I will always fight for their needs and keep them first.”

After running and winning the election, Miller served in the CT General Assembly as a House member from 2009 to 2021. During that time, she focused heavily on education reform and addressing the education opportunity gap that still exists within the Connecticut school system today.

Understanding firsthand the significant impact that literacy has in early childhood education, Miller took the lead in addressing and passing legislation that developed a reading readiness program, at the State Department of Education.

Additionally, she has supported consumer protection laws, advocated for underserved communities, and worked to strengthen domestic violence laws.

In 2021, after serving 12 years as a State Representative, Miller successfully ran for the state Senate and soon after, became the Deputy President Pro Tempore.

Making yet another mark in history, Miller is the first woman and first person of color to hold a seat that represents parts of Stamford and Darien.

Additionally, Miller is Chair of the Aging and Banking committees; Vice-Chair of the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee; and is a member of the Education, Commerce, and Veterans’ Affairs committees.

In each position that she holds, Miller carries her life experiences with her as a reminder of where she came from and what she has been through to get to where she is today.