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Colleagues honor NDVS director at her retirement

By ThisIsReno
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Kat Miller spent 44 years of public service in the Army and with the state

By Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group

Before the friendly bantering between retiring director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services and those in attendance at her retirement party ended, Katherine “Kat” Miller said she will miss those who are wearing or have worn the uniform to serve their county both at home and overseas.

Miller, who officially retired on April 30 after spending 10 years as the NDVS director, said she will experience the same type of transition of those men and women who were in the military. 

Kat Miller

“It’s really hard to leave,” she said at her April 28 retirement party that was held at the Governor’s Mansion.

Miller said the transition was made easier with those who both attended her retirement and made her decade-old tenure possible. She also thanked current Gov. Steve Sisolak and his predecessor, Brian Sandoval, for their support.

“I could not have asked to work for two finer men and two more inspirational leaders,” she said.

Miller also noted other people who worked for the State of Nevada and the NFDVS office. Other state department directors, Nevada National Guard commanders, congressional representatives and state-level commands from the various veterans service organization also attend the event.

The Reno native said she will miss many of the veterans with whom she worked, but she also looks forward to more family time. June also marks her 40th wedding anniversary to her husband, Bill, a retired Army colonel.

“Kat has served our state and our nation with great honor and distinction,” Sisolak said, adding the retiring director led NDVS during both good and bad times.

The first-term governor reviewed her accomplishments during the past 10 years and said many major accomplishments have occurred which resulted in a better quality of life for Nevada’s veterans. They  included the construction and opening of the Northern Nevada State Veterans Home in Sparks, which had its ribbon-cutting in December 2018. The 96-bed, $47 million facility is located on Battle Born Way. Before the veterans home opened, the only state facility was located in Boulder City, which opened in 2002.

Sisolak said both veterans’ homes have received the highest ratings for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Only the top 10% of nursing homes receive this rating, a testament, Sisolak said, to Miller’s leadership. 

Sisolak also noted Miller’s work and commitment with the two state veterans’ cemeteries in Fernley and Boulder City, the Battle Born Memorial in Carson City and the suicide prevention program.

The state’s first NDVS began during World War II, and 15 directors have guided the department.

“The NDVS has come a long ways since the first office was established in 1943,” Sisolak said. “The Nevada Department of Veterans Services has evolved into the kind of state agency that Nevada veterans and their families truly deserve.”

Sisolak said Miller will always be remembered with the number of lives she touched. With her military and state service, colleagues noted Miller’s combined 44 years of service with the military and NDVS.

During her tenure, Kat Miller, retired director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, presided at a number of Veterans of the Month ceremonies in both northern and southern Nevada. She honored he late Richard “Dick” Whiston in December 2018. Steve Ranson / Nevada News Group file photo

“In the next chapter of your life, we wish you well and nothing but the best,” Sisolak said. “Your legacy of service will remain forever.”

The governor presented a proclamation to Miller and also a Nevada flag that flew over the capitol.

The number of veterans has also grown in Nevada during the past decade. According to the NDVS, more than 80,000 veterans live in northern Nevada, and more than 300,000 reside in the state.

Miller, who grew up in Reno and graduated from Reno High School, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel after a 34-year career that included two years in the Nevada National Guard. She first enlisted and after attaining the rank of staff sergeant, she attended the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School. 

Among her assignments included Miller serving as  military police brigade commander in the United States and in Afghanistan and as commander of the Department of Defense’s largest correctional organization.

Miller’s last assignment was the Army’s deputy provost marshal general and commander of the Army Corrections Command.

Miller said her father was a sailor, her sister a Marine, and her brother an airman. According to Miller, she also served in South America, Europe and Southwest Asia. Deployments included tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Miller taught at the University of Maryland and the University of Nevada, Reno. She has a master’s degree in science from the U.S. Army War College and earned a Masters of Public Administration from Roosevelt University in Chicago.

New NDVS Director Fred Wagar, who was deputy director since 2017, showed a lighter side to the night’s serious comments. He said others see Miller at many events, but they don’t know the behind-the-scenes person. Humorous photos accompanied many of  Wager’s comments.

Wager said Miller had a thirst for knowledge and an insatiable appetite “to know stuff.”

Abigail Mayorga from Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto’s Reno office along with Louis Carrillo of Sen. Jacky Rosen’s office and Debbie Balsinger with Congressman Mark Amodei’s office praised Miller and her accomplishments for Nevada’s veterans. Mayorga said under Miller’s leadership, the NDVS director procured more than $7 million in federal grants for veterans’ projects and support programs. Carrillo said Miller changed veterans’ lives during her career.

Balsinger said Miller worked with veterans and their struggles.

“Thank you for your service; thank you for your selfless sacrifice,” Balsinger said.