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Council appoints Miller as Community Development director

Date: 1/11/2013

By Carley Dangona

WESTFIELD — At its Jan. 3 meeting the City Council unanimously approved the appointment of Peter Miller Jr. as director of Community Development. Miller's employment is scheduled to begin at the end of this month.

Miller served as a city councilor from January 2004 until April 2012. He currently serves as chief of staff for state Sen. Michael Knapik, but told Reminder Publications that his resignation is effective Jan. 25.

"Particularly having served as Ward 3 Councilor, many of the downtown issues have been among my top priorities for several years," Miller said. "Over the eight years I served, I was involved in most every important initiative in the downtown, particularly as it relates to infrastructure improvement, zoning, and quality-of-life initiatives. I think it will certainly be helpful that I have already earned the trust of many people who are actively engaged in city initiatives. I look forward to continuing to work with them in my new capacity."

Mayor Daniel Knapik explained that the position was revamped to focus on "neighborhood development, arts and culture and overall efforts to develop and promote the community."

The mayor stated, "Community Development activities help achieve a balance of live, work and play in Westfield. We are presently embarking on an enormous downtown development project where this effort will be galvanized for the benefit of generations of Westfield citizens in the future."

Knapik continued, "In addition to the large Elm Street Project, we are planning additional revitalization efforts in the area of Elm Street just south of the Great River Bridge, the Bentley Billiards Block, and the downtown areas adjoining the access points to the Columbia Greenway. The future planning of these areas needs to begin now."

Miller said, "I believe the future of our city is bright. The progress that has been made over the past five years has laid the groundwork for resurgence. It is now our responsibility to facilitate an environment where entrepreneurs feel comfortable taking a chance in our city, and I hope to promote an agenda where a diverse group of people makes a conscious decision to live in our core neighborhoods as well."

He added, "The job, however, covers more than just the downtown area and I would hope to engage residents in neighborhoods across the city to create plans based upon their unique needs. I think the interests of the business community and those who are active in our city's arts and cultural efforts are very similar. The goal will be to continue focusing on creating a new sense of place, where there is a flurry of activity and people of all backgrounds are comfortable."

Miller also said, "After brief conversations with the mayor, the first initiatives I will be involved with include the development of a housing development incentive program plan to entice private property owners to develop market-rate housing in underutilized downtown properties. Further, I think it will be important to immediately get out to meet with neighborhoods and businesses to solicit their advice and input as we plan for the future of our community."

Other duties Miller will have include working with the Community Development Block Grant program to assist residents with tasks such as purchasing a home for the first time and building code upgrades. He will also research the creation of affordable housing options for veterans and seniors.

"With Peter's background in city government and his former position in state government, he knows Westfield and has the network contacts at the local, state and federal levels to achieve our goals. Additionally, as a person that has given many years of his personal time to not for profit communities, he understands their unique challenges as well. Unlike some positions in our government, this person needs to live and breathe Westfield 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And that is Peter Miller," Knapik added.