The Equal Opportunities Commission’s Selection Committee has chosen Annette Miller, emerging markets and community development director for Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), as the recipient of the 2016 Reverend James C. Wright Human Rights Award. The award will be presented to her by Mayor Paul Soglin at the June 21 Common Council meeting in the City-County Building.
“I was honored and shocked when they told me,” Miller tells Madison 365. “It’s very awesome. It’s so powerful.”
Miller was nominated by Dawn Crim, associate dean for external relations at University of Wisconsin-Madison, who said she was particularly impressed with the work Miller did with MGE in building bridges between community, business, government, and nonprofits to transform the greater Madison area into an inclusive, vibrant, and resilient regional community.
The Reverend James C. Wright Human Rights Award honors the late Reverend James C. Wright, who served as executive director of the Equal Opportunities Commission from its inception in 1968 until his retirement in 1992. The award is given to an individual who best exemplifies Rev. Wright’s dedication and compassion for civil and human rights, aligning their daily life in consistency with these values.
“I had met Rev. Wright when I was younger but I didn’t know him personally,” Miller recalls. “I had friends – including many of my mentors – who knew him really well and they would always talk about what an impact he had on our community.
“He really cared about the people in the community and was really trying to solve problems from a people perspective,” she adds. “I feel like that’s what I try to do, too. Thinking about things from a people perspective; not necessarily always from a system side … which is important, too.”
This year marks the 21st annual presentation of the Reverend James C. Wright Human Rights Award to a deserving individual in the Madison community. “Rev. Wright impacted people so much because he was a pastor and a business owner and a well-respected community member,” Miller says. “He really made an impact with his work in civil rights.”
Miller joins a prestigious list of names who have won the Rev. Wright Award that include Jacqueline Wright, Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Anthony “Nino” Amato, Earnestine Moss, Jeffery Erlanger, Dr. Richard Davis, Darlene Hancock, Alfonso Studesville, Charlestine “Charlie” Daniel, Dr. Floyd Rose, and more.
Miller has lived in Madison since 1989. She started her career in state government providing policy, budget, and project management skills on topics such as new program development, workforce issues, and operational best practices for 11 years. In 2003, she accepted an opportunity as Mayor’s aide where she expedited and advanced community and neighborhood issues and projects on behalf of the Mayor. Since 2005, she has been at Madison Gas and Electric Company as the Emerging Markets and Community Development Director.
“I think what I like best about my job is that it’s always the people [and] really knowing that when I do work that it is with a purpose and with impact,” Miller says. “I like that I can tell that it is making a difference and it goes deep. I really value that part.
“I feel really fortunate that I work for a company that lets me do that effective, impactful work,” she adds. “I really feel like I have the best of both worlds. The community welcomed me in to understand what the issues are and to try to see from a business perspective how we can help them. Then, the company that I work for says that this is meaningful and important work and we want you to do it on behalf of us.”