The Hillsborough County Commission honored its former chairman, Les Miller Jr., this week with the silver anniversary edition of the Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award.
“He transformed Hillsborough County,” current commission vice chairwoman Kimberly Overman said of Miller.
Miller, 70, and his wife, Gwen, attended the Thursday presentation virtually.
A native of Tampa, Miller is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He served on Tampa City Council, the Florida House of Representatives, the state Senate and culminated a 10-year career on the Hillsborough County Commission in November. He was the first person to serve as minority leader in both the state House and state Senate.
His former colleagues lauded him for successfully pursuing state funding for the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer & Research Institute, for his cool-headed navigation of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and for working “tirelessly against bigotry and racism.”
“I knew I would never be a rich person to give back as a philanthropist,” Miller said. “I feel the best way to give back is to be an elected official to help those that need it the most. And, I thank those that allowed me to do that.”
The Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to someone who played a significant role in improving government through leadership and vision. Simmons served 21 years on the commission and, through his leadership and guidance, is credited with advancing the University of South Florida, Sun City Center, Tampa International Airport, University Community Hospital, and expanding the Hillsborough County Health Department.
“I cannot think of a better recipient,” Commissioner Ken Hagan told Miller. “You’re the ultimate statesman.”