By Rebecca Gaunt
Nick Miller found his calling as a community organizer and now hopes to bring that passion to the recently redrawn Georgia House District 35, which includes Kennesaw and Acworth.
Miller is a graduate of North Cobb High School and attended Furman University on a football scholarship. He graduated with a degree in political science and went on to enroll at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
“I really got involved in community organizing and that was what hooked me into politics–to have an opportunity to knock on doors, talk to voters–that’s where I found my joy in politics,” he said. “Making someone aware of an election they weren’t previously aware of. Letting people know about the opportunity for true representation.”
Miller started his career as a community planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission. He currently works for the Sizemore Group, an architecture and urban planning firm specializing in key development projects in the metro area.
He has worked with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and on the campaigns for Congressional candidate Dana Barrett and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff.
“There’s a sense of hope in Cobb County that wasn’t there some years ago,” he said.
Republican Ed Setzler currently holds the seat under the old boundaries. He has been in office since 2005. He announced his intention to run for State Senate District 37, currently represented by Lindsey Tippins, who is retiring.
Miller will face Lisa Campbell and Kyle Rinaudo in the Democratic primary on May 24.
He spoke to the Courier by phone.
Why are you running for House District 35?
“To bring true representation to Kennesaw and Acworth that just really wasn’t there before…a lot of that district was previously represented by Ed Setzler and that’s not the people I grew up around. Those aren’t the same values that they prioritize,” he said.
Criminal Justice Reform is one of your big issues. Are Cobb’s four accountability courts a step in the right direction? What will you do if elected?
“Accountability courts are really great. Anything that decriminalizes some of those minor offenses, I’m definitely in support of. The justice system needs to work; it needs to be intentional,” he said.
The biggest gap Miller sees is the support for people who are trying to integrate back into society. To combat recidivism, mental health programs and job support are essential.
“There’s a very large percent of those folks serving jail sentences that are suffering from mental health issues. I don’t think we should penalize them for that. We should give them the support that they need. Ultimately, our communities will benefit from that as well,” Miller said.
Mental health is an important issue for Miller, who said he appreciates the attention it has received during the current Georgia legislative session.
“We are not doing enough for mental health for people in the state of Georgia in general…the folks that I know who have gone through that system, it’s terrifying,” he said.
Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill dominated the Georgia legislature in 2019, sponsored by Setzler. Senate Bill 351, which would make it more difficult to obtain abortion pills, was introduced in the 2022 session. What is your response to these bills?
“Women should be able to make their own decisions, especially their own healthcare decisions,” he said.
“This is one of the issues that fires up the folks of Kennesaw and Acworth, and it’s kind of embarrassing that every time session comes around, there’s some bill that’s challenging women’s health and their access to resources.”
Miller supports expanding access to healthcare by expanding Medicaid, which could improve health outcomes for all, but especially pregnant women.
What are your plans for creating safe and affordable housing?
He believes transportation is key, particularly in areas where public transport is limited. Living wage is another. He’s also an advocate for inclusionary zoning, which requires new residential developments to make a percentage of units affordable to certain incomes.
While a lot of this would need to take place at the local level, Miller plans to advocate for it at the state level.
How can public transportation be improved?
“The reason why families locate in Acworth and Kennesaw is because it’s a great place for families to live,” he said. “Listening to those folks, with regard to transportation, probably is going to be the best. If they advocate for expansion of MARTA, then yes, but I’m not sure if that’s what folks are knocking down doors for in Kennesaw.”
Data shows that Black and disabled students are referred for exclusionary discipline and to law enforcement at disproportionate rates in Cobb County School District. As the son of an educator, supporting teachers is important to you. In particular, your website states the importance of training and retaining special education teachers, creating inclusive environments, and providing more counseling resources. What can be done to improve these statistics?
“Too many times leadership writes certain students off,” he said.
Miller would like to see more counseling services and support, training for teachers in de-escalation, and an emphasis on meeting the student’s needs before it gets to the point of a disciplinary encounter.
How would you rate the state of Georgia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
“Our leadership, especially on a state level, never really stood up and prioritized safety around the pandemic…there was some city leadership that stepped up at times, but from the state level, if you want me to give a letter grade for it, F,” he said.
East Cobb, Mableton, Vinings, and Lost Mountain are seeking cityhood. Do you support these movements?
“I do not,” he said, “I think if you talk to those folks actually within those communities, they are not the same folks that are excited about it. There’s a small group of folks speaking the loudest and saying this is what we need, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the truth.”
“It’s an effort to seclude certain folks and include others,” he added.
There are multiple bills being discussed in the current session in response to the CRT debate, related to teaching “divisive concepts,” in classrooms. What is your response to these bills?
“The people who are trying to make these decisions have very little knowledge of critical race theory. It’s definitely politically charged and I don’t know how you cannot see the benefit–if you want to recognize how great of a country we are, how great a state is, you have to recognize where we’ve been to know how far we’ve come,” he said.
“Ignoring critical race theory makes the point that we are where we need to be and that’s not the case. There are still people who are marginalized, people who are not getting a fair shake in society. And to understand that, we have to understand why folks are in that position.”
GOP redistricting efforts have been criticized as attempts to dilute Black and Brown voices. Do you think that characterization is accurate?
“I think it’s because the Republican party knows when we vote, we win. We’ve shown that over the last five years. Folks are excited. They’re showing up to the polls, so they know the only way they can win, or the way they still have a chance in Georgia is if they do what they’re doing, which is cracking, packing and drawing the lines unfairly,” he said. “It’s embarrassing we still have to deal with this.”
What needs to happen with regard to voting and the debate over ballot boxes and registration?
“Anything that increases people’s access to the ballot box. Early voting should exist, people should be able to submit absentee ballots, those ballot boxes, which were used by our current governor, people should have access to that. I don’t see why we would want to make it more difficult for folks to vote. The opposition party will claim that there’s ballot fraud, but we found time and time again, that is untrue. The only reason folks want to make it harder to vote is to increase their chances to win,” he said.
The Sterigenics ethylene oxide emissions and Georgia Power coal ash pits in Cobb have made recent headlines. What are your views on climate change and what can be done at state level?
Businesses must be held accountable, Miller told the Courier. He also sees climate change as one of the most pressing issues of his generation.
“It’s something that should be bipartisan, especially when you talk about clean water and clean air. We really need to hold these large companies accountable to the environment,” he said.
For more information, go to his website at electnick.com.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.