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Miller surprised with Merchant of the Year award

Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher presents the Merchant of the Year Award to Rob Miller at the Keizer First Citizen Banquet Saturday, Jan. 25. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Keizer Mayor Lore Christopher presents the Merchant of the Year Award to Rob Miller at the Keizer First Citizen Banquet Saturday, Jan. 25. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

It was certainly a good way to end a difficult week for Rob Miller.

Miller earned the Merchant’s Award at the Jan. 25 Keizer First Citizen Awards banquet, just a few days after learning he was no longer managing Hertz Equipment Rentals in Salem.

When it came time to get ready for the banquet, it didn’t cross Miller’s mind to think he was getting an award that night.

“Our kids like coming and wanted to go again this year,” Miller said. “My wife said, ‘I don’t think you got an award, but if you did, here is a little speech.’ I had been nominated before, so it wasn’t a surprise for her to say that.”

The surprise came when Gillian Herndon, last year’s winner, started rattling off the accomplishments of this year’s winner.

“I knew it was me,” Miller said. “I made the joke my wife had a speech for me. By the time I got up there, I had all these things figured I could say. Then I get up there and have that deer in the headlights moment.”

To say volunteering in the community runs in Miller’s family is a bit of an understatement. Miller’s brother Randy won the First Citizen award in 2005, plus Ben Miller Park is so named in their father’s honor.

“They named the Ben Miller Park after my dad for his volunteer efforts,” Miller said. “That’s what he instilled in us, to give back to the community.”

Miller was born and raised in Keizer, graduating from McNary High School in 1981. He joined the Ben’s Rentals (now Hertz) family business and, for years, let dad do the volunteering.

“It wasn’t until the late 1980s or 1990s that we basically, me and my brother, took over the family business and held down the fort so dad could help out in the community.”

That all changed when their dad passed away in 1998.

“We had left it to him to do the volunteering,” Miller said. “We took it over after that because he wasn’t around to do those things anymore. Sometimes you feel like there’s only so much time in the day, to volunteer you have to pick and choose which ones to do. It’s an honor to help out. Sometimes just to be asked to be part of these programs is an honor.”

Miller has been heavily involved with events like the Iris Festival, hanging Christmas lights with Dave Walery, Keizer Network of Women events and – until this year – the First Citizen banquet.

Miller also accepted an invitation from Richard Walsh to help provide tools for the upcoming The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park project.

“It was an honor to be asked to be part of the committee,” he said. “Those are the type of projects where you’re giving back to future generations. My emphasis is to get the tools. I need to figure out what all we need. I would like to get a tool manufacturer to do a demo day, so everyone doesn’t have to go to their garage and get tools.”

Miller will be turning to some old faces for help on the project: his former business.

“They decided to go in a different direction,” he said. “We left on good terms. I will still reach out to them for The Big Toy project or Iris Festival, different things I’m still involved in.”

In the meantime, Miller is figuring out what to do next.

“It is the beginning to a new life,” Miller said. “I figured I would get my legs under me and figure out what I want to do. I hadn’t had a resume out, so now I’m pushing that out there, to see what I want to do. I have some time. I’m in a good spot where I can figure out what direction I want to go in.”

Miller is humbled to join his brother as an award winner in Keizer.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It’s a real honor. I don’t do what I do to win awards. I do what I do because that’s what dad taught us to do. I’m the type that hides when the camera comes. I do it because I enjoy doing it. I like to give back and help out.”