By James Bateman, TJJD Probation Services

Amy Miller and her husband, Matt

Amy Miller began her career with the agency in 2002 as a case manager at the Corsicana Residential Treatment Center working with female offenders with mental health needs.

As the saying goes, cream often rises to the top and it didn't take long for administrators to recognize her talent. She was quickly promoted to a program administrator position in 2004.  During this time, Amy celebrated what she now reflects on as one of her proudest career accomplishments: She created a program specifically designed for youth with intellectual disabilities.

Tapping into her years of experience with the Mexia State Supported Living Center, where she served for 10 years before joining the then-Texas Youth Commission, she and her staff developed a program focused on both behavior analysis and behavior shaping.  Everyone received additional training beyond what was required by the agency.  “This dorm transformed into their home. It became a safe place that they shared with other youth with similar needs and where they ultimately thrived, the true definition of community,” Miller said.

Over the next several years, she served as Mental Health and Rehabilitation Services Supervisor and Assessment and Placement Coordinator.  Miller can also be credited with assisting in the creation of the youthful offender program at McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility, at Mart, assisting the Corsicana center in achieving a 96% score on their first ACA accreditation audit, and revamping the state’s intake process to include the first use of the PACT assessment. 

Miller left the agency for a short time, only to realize that her heart remained in juvenile justice.  She returned in September 2016 as the Special Grants Coordinator for Probation Services, becoming the first ever grants manager.  In October 2018, she accepted what would become her final position with the agency, Director of Probation Services.

During her time in this leadership role Miller says, “I have worked really hard to grow a division that can better support our county partners. I knew how very important it was for our Chiefs to have front door access to our agency, and that has remained the focus of the regionalization team today.”

“I am also proud of restructuring the JJAEP team to be more sustainable, revamping title 4E to be more effective and probably, most importantly, building a collaboration with our chiefs centered around a mutual trust,” she said.

“From the beginning, the probation chiefs have embraced me as one of their own, taught me about the probation system, and valued my expertise in both juvenile services and granting. They are varied in philosophy, resources, and approach, but united in their mission to make communities safer and help the kids sent their way. I’m humbled and grateful to have worked with them in support of that mission over the past seven years.”

Miller also praised her TJJD team. Working with and for Lou Serrano, Deputy Executive Director of Probation, Reentry and Community Services, “has been the highlight of my long career,” she said.

“I’ve been privileged to work with many amazing professionals and have had some incredible mentors in my 31 years of public service, most of which are still my friends today. Among them all, Lou has been the best mentor, colleague, and friend. I’m so very proud of the team Lou and I created in Probation Services.  Every member of the team brings strong skills and expertise to their role, and more than that, incredible passion, and energy for probation services in Texas.  I consider my time working with this team, and with the probation departments across Texas, the pinnacle of my career, and I am glad to retire knowing the system is in good hands.”

Amy Miller’s work has not gone under the radar. TJJD Executive Director Shandra Carter lauded Miller for her “instrumental role” in unifying the juvenile justice system and ensuring counties have the support they need.

“While we will greatly miss her passion for this work, we're also grateful for the time she's invested in building up and mentoring her team so they can take up the probation services gauntlet. They have big shoes to fill, but Amy prepared them well. We're excited to see what they accomplish next for and with the field,” Carter said.

Ashley Kintzer, who has been named Interim Director of Probation Services, said Miller has been her mentor and friend for many years.

“She is an incredible human with integrity and wisdom. As my supervisor, she was my rock. She was the person who always got me what I needed so I could do my best work. I appreciate her so much and always will,” Kintzer said.

Here are some tributes from County Juvenile Probation Chiefs who’ve worked with Amy Miller:

“From my first interaction with Director Miller, it was evident she was a practitioner with broad knowledge and expertise regarding juvenile justice.  More importantly, it was even more obvious Director Miller possessed an immeasurable heart for kids and was committed to positively impacting every person she came into contact with. . . (she) became an immediate lifeline of support and consultation.

“Amy has always ensured you truly knew and understood she was there for you, whether for questions surrounding stateside operations and policy or to be a sounding board to help navigate and problem solve local issues; she has always been there.  Director Amy Miller is the gold standard for what it means to be called to serve others.  I aspire to have a career as impactful and meaningful.  I will miss her immeasurably and wish her well in this next chapter of her life.”

-Lynn Hadnot, Director Collin County Juvenile Services.

“You have been an amazing advocate for all those working to improve the experiences and outcomes for young people impacted by the justice system and for the staff working with those children and families. You have a deep understanding of the complexities of juvenile justice and the knowledge of how the many state and county system components fit together. We will miss your tenacious spirit supporting our efforts and helping to guide progress. Thank you for all your hard work, candor, and commitment to doing what needs to get done. Looking forward to hearing about your next adventures!”

- Jill Mata, Chief Bexar County Juvenile Services.

“Three things I will say about Amy Miller, she was my friend, she was always a friend to probation, and she will be sorely missed.”

- Kirk Wolfe, Chief Wichita County Juvenile Services.

“In our personal and professional lives, people come and go, leaving little marks or memories, or lessons.  Then there are those that come into your life that make indelible, lifelong impressions; those that have the ability to say one word, show the smallest act of kindness, lend you their ear and their shoulder of support, or provide those words of wisdom that changes the entire trajectory of everything happening in your small piece of the world. For me, that is Amy Miller.Very early on in my tenure as a Probation Chief, also responsible for a pre- and post-adjudication facility, I was challenged with the possibility of facility closure, staff and youth challenges that are inherent in our work. Amy became a sounding board, a coach, and a cheerleader for me.  Her years of facility operations and administration experience, coupled with her knowledge of field operations, and that necessary balance between rehabilitation and accountability was and is a very unique skillset. Amy’s ability to meet you where you’re at in the moment is something we all preach but few are fully capable of embodying.

“I have a profound respect for Amy because when she says she is going to do something, she does it. When she asks what you need and you say, ‘I need you to come talk to my Commissioners’ Court,’ she’s there, with the team in tow! In twenty-four years (24) in Texas Juvenile Justice, I have never witnessed someone fight as hard as Amy has during a legislative session to bring the field together and have such a profound positive impact on our funding and our operations. She helped us to find our unified voice…and we are far better for it! Amy is a true leader, and she will be greatly missed.”

- Dawn Owens-Chief-Bell County Juvenile Services.

“I first met Amy Miller at a SNDP – TCOOMMI stakeholders meeting held in Dallas. I was very impressed with how well she facilitated the members present at the meeting, since there were some tensions with “growing pains” amongst both programs.Amy was extremely patient, professional, yet tactful in addressing the concerns and managed to get the group to reach a positive outcome. Meeting Amy that first time, I immediately knew she understood our juvenile justice field and most importantly, she was all about the youth/families we serve. And I especially liked that she was an Aggie! In 2017 during the first few months as CJPO, Lou Serrano and Amy were instrumental in guiding me through a major challenge within the department.  Amy came down to Cameron County and provided valuable technical assistance and support. Based on her previous expertise and the current management structure with TJJD, we were able to model TJJD and create an Executive Management Team (EMT), so we could have better internal controls within the organization.  What I truly appreciated from Amy was her professional demeanor, guidance, yet non-judgmental with what we needed to correct to move forward.  Throughout the years, Amy was our “lifeline” for quick and easy answers. Plus, we could easily chat about family and A&M football, softball, and baseball. She will be missed tremendously. We wish her the best in her new journey.”

- Rose Gomez-Chief-Cameron County Juvenile Services

A note from the author James Bateman: Even though I only worked for Amy Miller for a short time, I have known her through various project assignments with both TJJD and the legacy TYC.  I am both humbled and honored that I was able to write about a superior manager and dear friend.

Photo: Amy Miller and her husband Matt Miller