Former DHHR secretary eager to join WVU Board of Governors

By Tara Mapes | Oct 4, 2016

MORGANTOWN – Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin named attorney and former secretary of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Taunja Willis-Miller as one of the newest members of the West Virginia University Board of Governors on Sept. 20.

“It is an honor to be appointed,” Willis-Miller told The West Virginia Record. “The appointment presents a unique opportunity to give back to the university, which gave me an excellent education and laid the foundation for a successful career.”

Willis-Miller received both her undergraduate and law degrees from West Virginia University, where she earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

Willis-Miller served as West Virginia's first secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), from 1989 through 1991. DHHR includes several long-term care facilities, the state's mental hospitals, an acute care hospital.

Her peers regularly selected Willis-Miller for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America magazine, and she actively participates in community activities to continue her efforts to improve the health and welfare of the community.

Recipient of the 2011 Rural Health Leadership Award, she also serves on the Loan Committee of the Center for Rural Health, the advisory board for the Morgantown bank of Branch Banking and Trust Co., the Boards of Directors of Arts Monongahela, the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center and is a member of the Cheat Lake Rotary Club.

She maintains membership in the American Health Lawyers Association, the Healthcare Financial Management Association, the National Association of Bond Lawyers and the West Virginia Economic Development Council.

Willis-Miller added that she has also had many mentors who helped shape her as the person and professional she is today, starting with her parents and grandmother whom she said, “was a feminist before feminism.”

Willis-Miller expressed her life-long loyalty to West Virginia as she described the focus in her professional life as being improving the state through bond issues, educational and health care facilities, and serving as the secretary of the DHHR.

“I think this commitment to the state and to the university played a role in the appointment,” Willis-Miller said.

Willis-Miller says she is committed to being a fully engaged board member. When asked what she intends to contribute to the board, she said: “Almost 40 years of experience in public finance and representing governmental entities and nonprofits, together with experience in state government should help me contribute to the board.” 

With a rich history in human services and community engagement, Willis-Miller shared that she is open-minded and considers various solutions to problems.

“I have basic West Virginia values; I am honest and hard-working and care about my community," she said.

Willis-Miller said she has been interested in improving the lives of West Virginia’s children since she was in high school.

“My interest in the welfare of children led me to DHHR; my interest in health care grew from my work at DHHR. Children are, at the same time, our greatest resources and our most vulnerable citizens,” she said.  

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