Aruna Miller : From Hyderabad to the Maryland Statehouse

Aruna Miller: Inspiring Leadership and Historic Achievements

Aruna Miller, a name that resonates with inspiration and empowerment, has embarked on an extraordinary journey in American politics. Born on November 6, 1964, in Hyderabad, India, she is a symbol of hope and change. Aruna Miller’s remarkable life story is not only a testament to hard work and dedication but also a beacon of diversity and inclusivity in the world of American politics.

Early Life and Education of Aruna Miller

Aruna Miller’s roots trace back to Hyderabad, India, where she was born into a Telugu Hindu family. At the age of seven, her family embarked on a life-changing journey, migrating to the United States. Settling in Poughkeepsie, New York, Aruna, along with her parents and siblings, embraced the American dream.

Her father, Rao Katragadda, worked as a mechanical engineer at IBM, instilling the values of education and determination in his children.

Aruna’s educational journey led her to a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology. This solid foundation would later shape her illustrious career in the field of transportation engineering.

A Career in Transportation Engineering

Miller’s career in transportation engineering took her to various parts of the United States, including California, Virginia, and Hawaii. In 1990, she found her home in Maryland, where she dedicated her skills to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

Here, she initiated programs aimed at improving access to schools, employment centres, and community facilities, making them safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, and people with different abilities.

Her relentless commitment to public service led her to retire from Montgomery County in 2015 to focus on a new chapter of her life – her service in the Maryland legislature.

Entry into Politics

Aruna Miller became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2000. Her journey into politics was sparked by a deep sense of frustration with the Supreme Court’s decision in the Bush v. Gore case.

This frustration propelled her into the world of politics as she volunteered to support candidates who shared her vision for a better America. In 2004, she worked as a precinct-level volunteer for the Democratic Party and supported the presidential campaign of John Kerry.

In 2006, Miller’s dedication to public service was further solidified when she was appointed as an at-large member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, a position she held until 2010. Aruna Miller was determined to make a difference, and she was just getting started.

Maryland House of Delegates

A significant turning point in Aruna Miller’s political career occurred when state delegate Craig L. Rice decided to run for the Montgomery County Council in 2010. Activists within the Montgomery County Democratic Party approached Miller, urging her to run for the Maryland House of Delegates. Initially hesitant, she changed her mind after a heartfelt conversation with her husband.

Her decision to run proved to be a milestone in Maryland’s political landscape. Aruna Miller won the election, representing District 15 of the Maryland House of Delegates and succeeding Rice. After Rice’s resignation from the Montgomery County Council, Miller’s dedication and competence led to her appointment to represent District 15.

In her first term (2010–2015), Aruna Miller served on the Ways and Means Committee and its Revenue, Transportation, and Education Subcommittees. In her second term (2015–2019), she made significant contributions as a member of the Appropriations Committee, where she chaired the Oversight of Personnel Subcommittee and held key positions in other subcommittees.

Committees and Commissions

Aruna Miller’s commitment to public service extended to her active involvement in numerous committees and commissions:

  • President, Women Legislators of Maryland, Maryland General Assembly, 2016–2017
  • Chair, House Appropriations Oversight of Personnel Subcommittee, 2015–2019
  • Vice-chair, House Appropriations Transportation and Environment Subcommittee, 2015–2019
  • Vice-chair, House Appropriations Capital Budget Subcommittee, 2016–2019
  • Member, Maryland Advisory Council for Virtual Learning, 2012–2015
  • Commissioner, Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin, 2013–2019
  • Member, Business Climate Work Group, Maryland General Assembly, 2013–2014
  • Member, Joint Committee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Biotechnology, 2015–2019
  • Member, Joint Committee on Fair Practices and State Personnel Oversight, 2015–2019
  • Founding Member, Maryland Legislative Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Caucus 2015–2019
  • Member, Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee, 2017–2019
  • Commissioner, 21st Century School Facilities Commission, 2016–2017
  • Member, Maryland State Ethics Commission, 2019–2020

These roles allowed her to address a wide range of issues, demonstrating her versatility and dedication to improving the lives of Maryland’s residents.

2018 Congressional Election

Aruna Miller’s foray into national politics came to the fore in the 2018 congressional election. In May 2017, she announced her candidacy for the United States House of Representatives, vying for Maryland’s 6th congressional district. She embarked on this journey with a strong focus on representing her constituents and making a difference at the federal level.

Throughout her campaign, Aruna Miller received endorsements from key organizations and prominent figures, including the National Education Association, the Sierra Club, EMILY’s List, 314 Action, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Pramila Jayapal, and County Executive Ike Leggett, among others.

Despite a strong grassroots effort and substantial support, Aruna Miller narrowly lost the Democratic primary to David Trone, a self-funded candidate.

While her bid for Congress was not successful, it showcased her unwavering commitment to the values she held dear and her determination to make a positive impact on the lives of the people she aimed to serve.

Post-Legislative Career

In February 2019, Aruna Miller took on a new role as the executive director of Indian American Impact, an organization dedicated to empowering and promoting the participation of the Indian American community in American politics. Her involvement in this role underscored her commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion within the political landscape.

In January 2021, Aruna Miller filed paperwork to run for Congress once again, contingent on whether David Trone decided against seeking a third term. However, when Trone announced his re-election bid on May 7, 2021, Miller kept her plans for 2022 close to her chest, leaving her supporters eager to see her next move.

Lieutenant Governor of Maryland

A historic and pivotal moment in Aruna Miller’s political career unfolded when Wes Moore, a fellow Democrat, selected her as his running mate in the Democratic primary for the 2022 Maryland gubernatorial election. The Moore-Miller ticket emerged victorious in the Democratic primary on July 19, 2022, setting the stage for a historic general election.

In the November 8, 2022, general election, the Moore-Miller ticket defeated Republican nominees Dan Cox and Gordana Schifanelli. Aruna Miller’s election as the tenth lieutenant governor of Maryland marked several historic firsts: she became the first South Asian woman elected to the position in the United States, the first Asian American lieutenant governor, and the first immigrant to hold statewide office in Maryland.

Aruna Miller’s exemplary leadership qualities were evident from the moment she took office. She served as the chair of the transition team for Governor-elect Wes Moore, displaying her commitment to smooth and effective governance.

Tenure as Lieutenant Governor

Aruna Miller was officially sworn in as the tenth lieutenant governor of Maryland on January 18, 2023. This momentous occasion bore significance beyond the political realm, as she became the first lieutenant governor to take her oath on the Bhagavad Gita, a sacred Hindu scripture. Her dedication to her faith and her commitment to diversity were evident in this historic gesture.

Just a month into her tenure, Aruna Miller achieved another milestone, becoming the first woman of color to chair the Maryland Board of Public Works meeting. Her leadership was prominently displayed when Governor Wes Moore recused himself from a vote related to a contract between the Maryland Department of Health and Under Armour, a company in which he held financial interests.

Personal Life

Aruna Miller’s personal life is a reflection of her values and beliefs. As an adherent of Hinduism, she swore her oath on the Bhagavad Gita, emphasizing the importance of her faith in her public service.

In 1990, Aruna Miller moved to Montgomery County, Maryland, where she married her college sweetheart, David Miller. They share their home with three adult daughters and her mother, creating a close-knit and supportive family environment.

Her commitment to community organizations is unwavering, and she has served on the boards of Round House Theatre, Montgomery Parks Foundation, Emerge Maryland, Madison House Autism Foundation, BlackRock Center for the Arts, and the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation.

Aruna Miller is also a graduate of Leadership Montgomery, further showcasing her dedication to community and leadership development.

Also Read : Raj Subramaniam: The Journey from India to FedEx’s CEO

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