Every so often, we like to highlight a local superhero. It doesn't take a cape to be a hero!
Sheriff Quentin Miller, born and raised right here in Asheville, was elected to his office in 2018. He didn’t always see himself in law enforcement. “My mother asked me what I wanted to be, and at the time, I was 9 or 10, I told her I wanted to ride on the garbage truck because I thought it was cool because you jump on the truck, you whistle, then they go to the next house. I told my mom that’s what I wanted to do and she said, ‘That’s fine, but if that’s what you are going to do then you have to be the best garbage man that you can be.’ So whatever it is I chose to do in my life I try to be the best I can.”
Sheriff Miller and his wife, Karen, raised six children. Over the years, they have also been devoted foster parents to more than 100 children. After serving as an M.P. (Military Police) in the Army for 11 years, Miller returned home to Asheville and joined the Asheville Police Department. He became a School Resource Officer, an officer whose job is to ensure the safety and security of students and staff on Asheville City Schools campuses. It was this work that led him to become a foster parent.
While working as an SRO, Miller met a student who had run away from home, but few of the school's staff knew about her situation as she was still attending classes. When she landed in his office after a fight, Miller was faced with having to arrest her at her parents' insistence, despite not having time to get social services into place for her. He commented to the student that “things better work out, or she’s going to be coming to stay with me!” Several weeks later, the Department of Social Services called and told Miller they had a student there who claimed he had said she could live with him. Fortunately for the student and for Miller, his wife readily agreed to take this young woman into their home.
“We took her in not knowing that there was anything there to assist us. We were just doing what we would for our own children. We really didn’t know anything about the foster care system.” Despite the steep learning curve, Miller and his wife decided this was important work.
“Fostering gave my wife and I the opportunity to give back, but more importantly opportunity for a child to see something different. All we did was hold the kids accountable and show them love.” The Millers continue keeping in contact with their former foster children as they grew up, and even now remain close to them. “I have one kid, and he always calls to say ‘Dad, just checking to see if you’re OK.’ He was the first person to graduate in his family. He was a special needs kid, and he was told he couldn’t do this, couldn’t do that. I kept telling him he could do it. I wasn’t accepting excuses. You may need help, but you can do it. It means a lot when he calls me.”
Miller encourages people who are considering fostering to do it. “Being a foster parent is priceless. The fact that you have an opportunity to deal with kids who may have been less fortunate. Their parents may not have been there for them. This is an opportunity for a true ministry.”
This year has been a difficult one throughout the world. From a global health crisis to increasing tensions between law enforcement and protestors like those with the Black Lives Matter movement, this moment in time feels different to many. Sheriff Miller sees a path for Buncombe County to come away from 2020 stronger than ever. But first, he says, we have to talk about the pandemic, and we have to talk about the protests, and we have to have everyone at the table.
“Speaking from law enforcement, we need to work together with our community to come up with solutions," Sheriff Miller says. "People of all races and ethnic groups sit down together and have discussions about how we fix things. I believe that Buncombe County is unique. We can fix these problems in Buncombe County and we can be a model for the rest of this country. I honestly believe that we can do it. But notice I said we. I really truly believe that it is going to take a WE to get out of this.”
This sentiment, of bringing ALL voices to the table echoes throughout Sheriff Miller’s work. “With the pandemic How do we work together to figure out how to keep people safe. And we have an economic crisis with the pandemic. I don’t think anyone has the single answer, but if we are willing to sit down together and have these open, honest discussions, we can find solutions and strategies to work together to achieve the goal. I don’t think we can go back and have Asheville return back to where it used to be, but we can come up with our new 2020 if we all have input.”
Sheriff Miller encourages members of the community to reach out and speak up. “The challenge here is that if we say nothing, we say a lot. I would challenge people to be participants. We have to work to get people to the table to help strategize and come up with solutions. For people who read this, know that your Sheriff is listening. I want you to come help us find these solutions that Buncombe County so desperately need.”
You can contact Sheriff Miller through his office HERE