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February 6, 2014

Blue collar boss: Miller blends skills, steady stewardship as rookie foreman

EAST LIMESTONE — Ardmore native Dannie Miller is the newest district foreman in the county, but he isn’t exactly a rookie when it comes to maintaining roads, teaching equipment skills or troubleshooting.

He became District 2’s crew chief last fall when Ronald Lewter stepped down as foreman after 39 years with the county.

Miller, whose soft-spoken but steely demeanor is reminiscent of many of Jimmy Stewart’s famous film roles, supervises equipment operators Bill Boldin, Joseph Mears and Ricky Vining and a temporary employee.

In addition to removing and burying roadkill and responding to residents’ concerns, the close-knit crew also maintains 155 miles of roads and 20 bridges in the district.

“Dannie is just a blessing to the district, even before he became foreman,” District 2 Commissioner Steve Turner said. “He has 40 years of (utility or equipment) experience, and he’s an excellent backhoe operator.

“He does a great job with the crew and is good at dealing with the public.”

Roving the region

The 62-year-old has done everything from picking cotton and working on a dairy farm in Ripley to spending three years at a galvanizing steel plant in Birmingham and 29 years as a utility contractor in Limestone County and throughout the region.

He hasn’t wrestled any alligators but he saw plenty of the creatures during utility assignments throughout the Southeast, which included installing fiber-optic cable in the Georgia swamps in 1986.

“I saw plenty of alligators and cottonmouths, but I guess the swamp was the most unique location because we were using large equipment, such as the swamp pads we used to float the equipment to get through some of the areas,” he said. “We did get some stuck and would have to turn around and dig them out.”

In addition to his full-time gig with the county, which requires reporting to the tool shed by 7 a.m. daily, Miller also owns a backhoe and does contracting work on the weekends.

But even with both jobs, he still finds time to grab some bait and head out to a nearby riverbank.

“I like to fish almost anywhere on the Elk River,” said Miller, whose favorite fish to deep-fry is freshly-caught crappie. “There’s more bank fishing on the Elk, while the Tennessee River is more for boat fishing.”

When asked if he has any plans to retire, the 1969 Ardmore High School graduate chuckled and said he still looks forward to coming to work “because it’s never the same and I like the challenges.”

Miller, who was hired in November 1999, is among four district foremen with nearly 70 years of combined experience working for Limestone County.

County records show District 3 Foreman Tom Kilgore as the longest tenured with 22 years, followed by District 4’s Randy Mashburn with 18 and District 1’s Stanley Hill with 13.

 

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