I first met Larry Miller in 1990 when I was in high school and volunteered for his campaign for State Representative from Shelton, Stratford, and Trumbull. In one of our first conversations I asked him what his platform was, and he said: “I’m just a regular guy trying to make a difference. If I can help people’s lives in some small way, then that’s my platform.” That summed up Larry’s humble, quiet dedication to our families in his 23 year career in the legislature.
Larry passed away May 31, at 78 after a long bout with cancer. The loss will be felt most by those he loved the most-his wife of 54 years Millie, his three kids, and four grandkids. He was such a phenomenal and loving presence in their family, and they were the center of his life. But all of us in Shelton, Stratford, and Trumbull will mourn Larry’s loss as one of our leaders.
Larry was exactly the type of person you want to hold public office. He never set out to be a politician. Larry lived the American dream, starting and growing his own business. He got into politics locally on the Stratford Town Council and planning and zoning committees, entering into state politics as a “second act” in his career as he sold his business.
Over his 23 years Larry had many achievements, but the one that stands out most is the one that defined his struggles and triumphs in the last fifteen years-stem cell research. I remember when Larry was first told he had cancer in the late 1990’s that he thought he had two or three years to live, but that there was experimental treatment with something called “stem cells” that he was going to try. Those treatments not only extended his life by fifteen years, but rapidly became mainstream in cancer treatment. Larry worked with Gov. Rell to establish Connecticut’s groundbreaking $50 million stem cell research grant, and put a human face on the ability of scientific advances to help all our families.
Larry’s experience running a small business colored his views on government-that individual liberty, low taxes, small business, and local control were better than big-government approaches. At the capitol, Larry was known as a champion for both housing and environmental issues. He was the leader of the annual fight against “8-30g,” the housing statute that allows developers to hold localities ransom in the name of affordable housing. Larry championed an alternative approach based on local control of zoning. Larry also championed bio-diesel as a realistic alternative to traditional fossil fuels, and co-authored major bi-partisan bills for brownfield remediation and cleaning Long Island Sound.
Larry was the last of a generation of leaders, including Sen. Doc Gunther and Rep. Dick Belden, who represented us all so well in the legislature. Larry represented the best of our country — a love of family, getting ahead through hard work, and bravely facing adversity. Connecticut lost one of the good guys. And I will miss my friend.
Dan Debicella is a former State Senator from Shelton.