Veteran Derry DUP Alderman Joe Miller has announced that he will not be standing for re-election in the next local elections.
Mr Miller, who has been working in the DUP constituency office at Ebrington Terrace for the past 10 years, informed senior party members William Hay and Gregory Campbell of his intention to retire during the Christmas and New Year break.
An Alderman for the past 23 years, he has been elected to the debating chamber at Derry City Council on six consecutive occasions.
Mr Miller said: “I am retiring from my post in the office first, and handed in my resignation between Christmas and the New Year. I felt it was time for a change and I also turned 60 recently, but it is not the end because I am still a full serving member of the council and will remain so for the remainder of the current term. So it is more a gradual withdrawal from public life. I will not be standing at the next council elections.”
“We have a lot of good quality young people coming through the ranks and into council from our party and I think it is important for people to know when to let go and give others room to come through and take up the reins,” he said.
“Something I feel I should do is make a little more time for myself and for my private life,” he said of his decision.
“It has been a absolute pleasure to work with William Hay and to have him as my employer. I must say that the office staff have always been very helpful and I got on well with them,” he said, adding: “However, I think this is a good time to go because the political will of the people has been decided in Northern Ireland and there is a settlement and when I look at my grandchildren I can see a peaceful future for them with everybody trying to move on with the new dispensation that we have in operation now.
“I have to accept the ballot box as the final discipline and in tandem with that you have to accept that you must work with whoever the electorate votes into office, and to that end I always have and will continue to work with all the elected members of the council for the betterment of those who have elected us,” he said.
Thanking Mr Hay and Bill Irwin in the DUP office, Mr Miller also paid tribute to MLA/MP Gregory Campbell, whom he credited with bringing him into politics in 1989 and who became his mentor. He also thanked his party colleagues, past and present, and paid tribute to the council officers and staff he has worked with down through the years for their unstinting support.
“We may have had our different viewpoints, but I have always strived to have a good working relationship with everyone and I think when you are one of six Unionist councillors on a council of 30 members, then you have to work with those who have been elected in order to achieve positive outcomes for your constituents.
“I believe I have done this to the very best of my ability, and I can honestly say that I have worked for anyone that comes to me and I will continue to do so until I retire completely,” Mr Miller said.
Reflecting on almost a quarter of a century in the debating chamber, Mr Miller said he believed his service to the public had come at “an interesting and unique time” in politics in Northern Ireland, but that it had been a good time to be involved as well.
“I think the two things that people want from their elected representatives are that you do what you say you are going to do when you are canvassing their vote, and secondly that you help them when they come to you looking for help. It’s not rocket science, it is a simple basic requirement I think, that when you give your word you should keep it,” he said.
Looking to the future, the former mayor (1998 to 1999) said that while most of his life in terms of years were behind him, the best years from a personal point of view could be lying in front of him, and his aim was to get his lifestyle balance right and carve out some personal time and space for himself with his family.
Noted for his great sense of humour and his uncanny ability to impersonate Dr Ian Paisley, Mr Miller - described affectionately as ‘Gentleman Joe’ by colleagues - was awarded the MBE for his services to local government in 1999.