Miller Declines Offer To Replace Robles And Fill GT Council Gap

Grand Terrace’s four remaining elected municipal officials are yet cataloging their options in seeking a replacement for Sylvia Robles after seeking to plug the gap on their panel created with her abrupt resignation last month by offering that position to former Councilman Jim Miller, who declined the honor.
Robles, a former county employee who was first elected to the Grand Terrace City Council in 2012, reelected in 2016 and then reelected once more in 2020, was serving a term that was set to expire in December of this year. She was obliged to resign as councilwoman because, following her husband’s retirement, the couple had resolved to move to San Clemente. She earlier intended to make that transition next year, after leaving the council, but a favorable offer on their Grand Terrace home and an equally favorable opportunity to purchase a home in the Orange County beach community necessitated that they make the move at once.
Her departure left the five-member city council at four-fifths strength, such that it could forego filling the position, leaving the number of council members at four until after the upcoming November election or allow it to appoint someone to take her place. One consideration in making an appointment was that such an appointee would take on the authority and status of an incumbent, giving that individual a leg up over his or her competitors going into the November election if he or she chose to run. For that reason, the council wanted to name someone who could take on the responsibility and come up to speed with regard to civic issues in as short of a time as possible while not conferring an unfair advantage on that officeholder with regard to the November election.
Mayor Bill Hussey, saying it was something “I was praying on and it came into my heart,” settled on offering the post to Jim Miller, who had been on the city council for nearly five years in the oughties.
First elected in 2004 and reelected in 2008, Miller’s tenure on the council came to an end during the escalation of the struggle between warring factions in normally staid Grand Terrace that came about as a consequence of Assistant City Manager Steve Berry in 2009 seeking to advance to the permanentized position of city manager after he had moved into the post of acting or interim city manager when then-City Manager Tom Schwab was temporarily sidelined with a subdural hematoma. During that infighting, Miller had sided with Schwab, while two others on the council, including then-Councilwoman Bea Cortes, had fallen under the sway of Berry. Cortes, the on-again, off-again mistress of then-District Attorney Mike Ramos, brought a number of external influences to bear in that fight, at which point a disgusted Jim Miller elected to resign from the council, revealing the underhanded dealings of Berry, Cortes and Ramos in the process.
Ultimately, Berry was terminated, Cortes was voted out of office the following year and the exposé of Ramos’s behind-the-scenes political machinations in Grand Terrace was among the accumulation of such exposés that led to his eventual defeat in his effort to remain as San Bernardino County district attorney in 2018. In 2021, Miller, a county employee in the real estate division, took early retirement following a COVID-related convergence of physical maladies that contributed to a precipitous decline in his health.
On March 26, less than a week after Robles’s resignation, Hussey broached the concept of installing Miller as interim councilman to replace Robles between the end of March and December, 2024, a month after this year’s municipal election in which Robles’ position on the council is to be contested. Hussey indicated that Miller, who has given previous indication he no longer has any political ambition, would ideally serve in the council role just long enough to fill the post and not seek reelection, making the November contest to ultimately replace Robles a fair one that would not involve an incumbent.
Hussey characterized Miller as “an individual who has done a lot for the city and he still did a lot for the city after getting let go from the city. He has never had hard feelings and has continued to do everything he can. Of course, he is a Marine, so Marines will always keep going. I would like to bring Jim Miller back until the end of the year and have him serve on the council, if Jim Miller would like to come back. I think the city owes him that. I’m not going to go into the past. Everybody on the council knows what happened, and it was wrong. He’s a good guy. He’s what the city needed back then and I think he would be a good way to fill it for the other people who are running, to give them an opportunity.”
Councilman Jeff Allen responded, telling Hussey, “You are not the only person behind this dais that admires Mr. Miller, and thinks highly of him and his service to the community, his whole family, in fact. I think somebody should reach out to him or Miss[es] Miller and see if he would be amenable to that offer. I am certainly very open to that discussion.”
The motion to offer the post to Miller was endorsed by a unanimous vote of the council.
Miller told the Sentinel he was grateful for the nomination, saying he viewed it as an acknowledgment of this previous contributions to the city. He said serving as a city council member again would allow him an opportunity to once again contribute directly to the city’s governance and to follow through on some issues he felt needed to be addressed, but said that given his current health and physical limitations, “I’m not up to it. I don’t think I have the wherewithal and intensity to give the citizens I would be representing the performance in office they deserve.”
He said it was time for younger people to take the helm in Grand Terrace, noting that everyone on the council is well over the age of 50.
In response, the city is now purposed to carry out an open process for filling the vacancy, by which applications from interested citizens are to be solicited. This will preclude, as Hussey had indicated he had hoped, preventing anyone who is interested in running for the council in November from seeking the appointment.

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