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Miller details career path from Alaskan boat captain to Associate Circuit Judge

Mitch Prentice
Lake Sun Leader
Heather Miller.

After nearly a decade of working with Camden County, it was announced last week that Prosecuting Attorney Heather Miller was appointed as Associate Circuit Judge for 26th Judicial Circuit by Governor Parson. While many locals may recognize Miller from her years of work at the courthouse, they may not know that her career’s work in the legal system started on a boat in Alaska. 

Miller says that she originally had no interest in the field of law. She says she always took part in speech and debate teams in highschool but never thought about being a lawyer. Miller says the responsibility faced for others’ livelihood was too much. Her original goal was to work on the water. This led Miller to become a boating captain in her home state of Alaska. 

From commercial fishing to work on the coasts, Miller saw many hours at sea. During her time in this profession, Miller says she met many people along the way that created her initial interest in law. Many of the workers on her ships were working on probation, leading Miller to have to learn some of the ins and outs of the legal system through their lives. 

Miller would late move to Maryland, where she and her husband would sell yachts. They would stay in this line of work until a year later when the decision was made to move back to Miller’s husband’s hometown in Lebanon, MO. Miller’s father-in-law worked as an attorney in Lebanon, leading her to learn more about the career. This move back home led both Miller and her husband to go back to school for law. A few years later, Miller took internship work with Pulaski and Camden County. In 2012, she would become an assistant prosecutor in Camden County. 

“I really was happy to have an opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Miller said. 

The path to get to where she is today has been unlike many others, but the past decade of service to the county has led to a position that Miller is honored to receive. As Associate Circuit Judge for 26th Judicial Circuit, Miller will preside over cases involving civil wrongs, such as family court cases and misdemeanors. 

Miller says that she intends to continue placing a strong emphasis on the use of treatment courts, which she worked to create and sustain over the last few years of her career. These include veteran’s court, DWI court and drug court, which all aim to give offenders an approach to assist in overcoming addictions, mental health disorders and any other issues which lead to criminal behavior. 

Another obstacle Miller faces in her first year of the appointment is the continued battle with COVID-19. Many courthouses saw a decrease in hearings in 2020 and even the removal of juries in many cases. Miller says that the light at the end of the tunnel is present, however, as jury trials are scheduled to return in the next few months. She says she is proud of the prosecutor’s office for continuing to find ways to work through the at-home nature of the job. 

Overall, Miller says it “means the world” to her to be able to serve in this role. She says that the lake area is her home and in many ways, local values parallel with the values that her hometown in Alaska installed in her.