For some, serving the public is a burden and an obligation. For others, it is a source of encouragement and challenge.
Madison County Community Development Director Frank Miles has shown steady determination and desire to serve the people in his community by adopting a “make it happen” attitude.
The Community Development department answers to the County Board for the management of federal and state grants received by the county. Miles oversees approximately 25 employees delegated to grants such as the Community Development Block Grant program, the HOME program, energy assistance, weatherization and the lead hazard control program. The department also works to encourage economic development.
“The focus of my entire career has been to help the public,” Miles said. “I’ve been a public servant above anything else. Government is supposed to be here to help its people. It’s about having the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life and make an impact. The key is working with others to make do with what you have and learn to work within your means to get the job done.”
Miles’ roots were planted in the area at an early age. His father, Dale, packed up from Dover, Tenn., and followed work to Granite City, at the time a booming city that courted families with attractions such as Woolworths, a movie theater, parades and other activities.
“Mom was from Granite City and worked at a bank in St. Louis when she met my dad,” Miles said. “My dad was a terminal manager for a trucking company that hauled steel out of Granite City Steel. He served in the trucking profession his entire life until retirement a few years ago. We were lucky; mom was there when we left in the morning for school and when we came home.”
Miles’ first exposure to politics came from listening to men in the family and their discussions.
“My family has been involved in politics one way or another for some time,” Miles said. “My own foray into politics was for a guy named Jake Butcher, who was running for Tennessee’s governor at the time. I spent my summers in the South, where we got involved with the Butcher campaign. I was responsible for making sure we handed out his bumper stickers.”
A 1977 Granite City North graduate, Miles was the features editor for the North Star school newspaper and contributed to the school yearbook before migrating south to pursue a degree in journalism at Murray State in Kentucky.
After a short time at Murray, Miles returned to his roots to attend Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with the intention to follow his passion for writing. While Miles enjoyed writing, he found the political bug dug in deep after taking a couple courses in government, local government administration and Illinois government under Dr. Dennis Hostetler at SIUE.
“I liked doing features, not hard news; the kind of information that entertained and informed,” Miles said. “Journalism kept me intrigued until the middle of my freshman year at SIUE; they have a great journalism program.
“I guess I was bit by the political and government bug. I changed my major at SIUE to government and public affairs with a double concentration on anthropology. I think from the beginning it was always about helping people. A lot of things were happening in our country politically at the time; President Carter was just leaving office and Reagan was coming in. There was a major downsize in government at that time.”
Miles’ resumé reflects a definite strategy and ability to see down the road. Former congressman for Illinois’s 12th District Jerry Costello turned to Miles after being elected into office.
“When I looked for someone to join my staff, Frank Miles was at the top of my list,” Costello said. “He (Miles) was responsible for a district office and did an excellent job. Once he starts a task, he finishes it with a job well-done and he is good at managing his people. He was someone with experience developing an economic plan and seeing it through. I highly respect Frank Miles and his opinion.”
Fighting with conviction
In what Miles called “experience gained” from working under Costello, he joined Granite City U.S. Steel workers, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, Granite City Mayor Ed Hagnauer, Madison County Administrator Joseph Parente and local union presidents on a visit to Washington in February.
The group visited the U.S. Department of Commerce, the American Iron and Steel Industry and spoke with senators and congressional staff from Illinois and Missouri.
“Making changes is a long and hard process with many moving parts,” Miles said. “We are having to work with laws from the 1930s and ‘40s. I think our meetings helped put a human face to those folks in D.C. We reminded them that everything they do and the choices made affect people here in Madison County. Every steelworker’s job impacts seven other jobs elsewhere.”
Miles said a recent Department of Commerce ruling imposed a tariff on cold-rolled flat steel products. A preliminary decision determined cold-rolled flat steel products were dumped on the U.S. marketplace in violation of international trade laws.
The case will be submitted to the International Trade Commission, where a final determination of anti-dumping duties for this case, as well as two other pending cases, is expected before the end of summer 2016.
“All of the steps taken will help U.S. Steel’s bottom line,” Miles said. “This will help bring back various portions of the plant. That is a huge step for us. We want business that will bring jobs to Madison County and we want our residents to have the ability to have job security that will help provide for families.”
Looking back on his career, Miles feels as though he’s done his best to make good career and political choices and he’s proud of his achievements during his climb up the Madison County ladder.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with some good men like Congressman (Jerry) Costello, Matt Melucci and Chairman Dunstan,” Miles said. “I went to D.C., saw President Clinton, worked with cabinet secretaries and I’ve made a lot of friends and connections along the way. I was very proud of the recycling program when I worked as director of Planning and Development and the work I did with the flood prevention district.
“My family has always remained the residents of Madison County. I attended school in Madison County and local government is where my heart is. The best advice I was ever given was from Congressman Costello when he told me ‘you don’t wait for things to happen, you make them happen.’”
Miles resides in Edwardsville with his wife of 12 years, Amy, and his 8-year-old son, Andrew. Amy sells Pampered Chef in her spare time and has two college-aged daughters, Amber and Alyssa, from a previous marriage.
Frank’s thoughts on…
“Looking at transportation, we need Interstate 270 to be widened from Illinois 255 to the Mississippi River bridge that goes over the canal. The bridge going over the river itself needs to be replaced altogether. We’re pressing it in Washington and Springfield. That is one thing that is a priority that we need to get done.”
“When it comes to health care, we have a booming aging population. Health care is one area where I personally feel the government is behind the eight ball. I know Chairman Dunstan is taking steps to address that issue. We are looking into services that can help.”
“Tourism is important to every area in our county. We are very fortunate that our county has a very different and deep range of history. In the early 1800s, this was the end of the country right here. Everything west of the Mississippi was a mystery. Tourism and expansion creates jobs.
“When I think of tourism, I think of places like My Just Desserts in Alton. They draw tourists into their business that come to Alton for a carnival, a concert, antiques or even to look for eagles. Every stop a person made in our area during their visit employed someone.”
“Flooding has been a major concern. We learned with this last December flood that Pontoon Beach will have a continuous problem unless it is addressed. From the warehouses to Horseshoe Lake, it’s one giant pond that will be addressed through the flood prevention district.”
“When it comes to economic development, I feel our county has been on automatic pilot. We need to provide more active, hands-on, regional leadership. We need to do more to be attractive for businesses to open here and we want to do more to keep the businesses we already have. In situations like losing Dynegy in East Alton, we want more communication before a business closes or moves. If we receive notice of a problem, we may be able to help remedy issues before closing or relocating.”
1977: Graduated from Granite City North High School
1983: Bachelor’s degree in government and public affairs, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
1988: Masters of public administration, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
May 1988 to August 1992: City of Edwardsville, director of development administration
August 1992 to January 1994: Madison County; circuit clerk, comptroller and deputy circuit clerk
January 1994 to April 1999: City of O’Fallon, director of administration and economic development coordinator
April 1999 to July 2006: Chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello
July 2006 to January 2010: Madison County, director of planning and development
January 2010 to December 2010: Madison County, treasurer (appointed)
December 2010 to August 2013: America’s Central Port, business development manager
August 2013 to August 2014: Southwestern Illinois College, campus executive director
August 2014 to present: Madison County, director of community development