BOSTON – Melanie Miller is aware of the perks that go along with being the daughter of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. But she’s also conscious of the disadvantages.
Miller, president of the Maryland Young Democrats who is leading a delegation of 62 young party activists at this week’s Democratic National Convention, said she can’t always say what she feels.
“Everyone embraced us (at the convention) right away, and it was probably because of Dad,” Melanie Miller said. But “people look at me as a representative of him, so I have to be more cognizant of what I say.”
Like her father, Miller seems like a natural politician, working every room with enthusiastic handshakes and an ever-present smile while invoking her father’s name to hook up her young proteges to state and national party strategists and politicians.
“She’s her own person,” said her father, one of Maryland’s most powerful and longest-serving president of the Senate for the past 17 years. “She speaks her own views, and sometimes they are contrary to members of the Senate. I just ask her to be a little patient with them.”
The 35-year-old Salisbury State University graduate is the only one of Miller’s five children who has entered the political arena. She said she gets to see her father as both a dad and a politician, something her siblings can’t experience as intimately.
“I’m the one that gives dad gray hair,” she said.
The Senate president said he thought his daughter would go into one of the family businesses, which include banking, operating a trucking company and running a grocery store, in addition to politics. He didn’t know if she would choose a career in politics, but knew one profession she wouldn’t pick.
“I knew she wasn’t going to be a college professor,” he said. “She’s a free spirit. If it was a sunny day and the question was whether she would go to the ocean or go to class . . . she loved Ocean City very much.”
But then about five years ago, in the midst of her peak partying years, she was diagnosed with a blood disease that led to heart surgery.
“I was a typical late 20s, who went to work, went to happy hour and bought clothes,” she said. “I was doing nothing for society.”
She said her heart surgery was a gift that gave her a new outlook on life. About six months later, she was elected president of the Maryland Young Democrats.
Her father said his daughter’s interest in politics was always present.
“Melanie’s whole life has been about me and going to political events,” Miller said.
Although Miller said her father played a major role in her life, she added that the generational gap reflects on their political beliefs.
“I’m definitely more liberal than he is,” she said.
“She’s more caring, more thoughtful (than I),” he said. “She’s full of energy.”
When she’s not at work as airport management assistant at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Miller devotes her time to the Young Democrats.
“Not being married and not having kids – this is like my family,” she said.
Jayson T. Williams, 22, a Young Democrat from Baltimore, said Miller’s greatest leadership skill is her persistence.
“One thing she taught me was how to ask elected officials for money and how to get it out of them,” Williams said.
Miller and the Young Democrats raised $32,000 to travel to the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. They raised $12,000 for this convention.
“I had no idea I had the power of fund-raising,” she said.
She doesn’t know if she wants to run for office in the future. For now, she wants to focus on the Young Democrats.
“I have a gift that my dad has given me – the ability to interact with people,” she said. “If you give me a room of 1,000 people, I will literally go from one end of the room to the other and meet every one of them.”