Director of Good Shepherd Community Center says it’s time

Published 7:14 pm Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Rev. Tommy Miller, who guided and directed the programs at Good Shepherd Community Center for 21 years, is leaving the center.

“It’s just time,” he said. “I’ve been here 21 years and it’s just time to do something else. God opens doors, closes doors, and I just feel like it’s time to move on to another area of ministry, and I have no clue what that might be, but I’m having faith that God will lead me where I need to be.”

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Good Shepherd leader

Good Shepherd had been a part of Miller’s life for years before Bill Watkins, the center’s founder and its first director, asked him to be his successor.

“My wife Debbie and I had always supported, not only financially, but we volunteered here with the clothing closet and tutoring and did a lot of repair work around the center when it first opened,” Miller said.

A year before he left, Watkins, who served as Good Shepherd’s director for 11 years, approached Miller “and told me, ‘I want you to take over,’ and I just laughed at him.

“But after praying about it for a year, Debbie and I decided that was where God wanted us to be.” Miller took over as director in 1998. But his tenure almost ended as soon as it began.

In a 2016 interview he said his first week as director almost caused him to briefly reconsider his decision to take over as director.

“If my second week would have been as bad as my first, I would have left,” he said. “Everything went wrong. It was a circus. The second week was better, and third was good. God has seen us through.”

As Good Shepherd director, Miller oversees a staff of full- and part-time employees and the center’s programs. It’s an extensive list that includes daycare for children ages six weeks to 4 years old, tutorial and after school programs, GED classes, free medical clinic, Thanksgiving and Christmas assistance, and emergency food service.

His work as Good Shepherd director has been recognized by the community, most recently during United Way of West Central Mississippi’s annual meeting and awards luncheon when he was named the 2018 Agency Director of the Year.

“Mr. Tommy has been a part of my personal and professional life for a very long time,” said Michele Connelly, United Way executive director. “He is an excellent mentor, he is a wonderful community advocate.

“Not only did he share with me my first opportunity to give back and volunteer, he shared it with my daughter, also. For generations, he has touched the lives of many, both in giving and teaching others to give.

“As the director of Good Shepherd Community Center, a Methodist outreach, and also as a United Way agency, he will be sorely missed, but I know Mr. Tommy well enough to know this is just another page to his journey and he will continue to do great things for others.”

Uncertain future

Miller said he is not sure where his next calling will be, adding he plans to remain music minister at Hawkins United Methodist Church “unless God moves me some place else. It’s really up in the air, but I’m OK with it.”

He said he’ll miss his staff and seeing the people who come through Good Shepherd.

He said his biggest accomplishment has been watching the children who come through the center’s day care program grow and the way most of them have become productive adults, and seeing the parents who are appreciative of what Good Shepherd has done for their children.

“Hopefully, we gave the foundation for their learning here,” he said.

Miller will not be involved in the search to name his successor.

“We are taking applications right now through the end of this week and the executive committee of the board will take those next week and look at those.

“We’ve had several (applicants), and they’ll narrow it down to 2 or 3 they would like to interview, and then in the next couple of weeks will interview those people and the board will make a decision.

“The only thing I will do in that process is hand in the resumes and say, ‘Y’all go to it,’ because it’s not my job to name a successor; just to be there with prayer.”

He said he’s planning to leave in June.

“Hopefully we’ll have someone hired for a month or so and we can meet and work through all the stuff we do here, so they will be familiar. I don’t plan on leaving Vicksburg, so if I’m needed fine, if I’m not needed, that’s fine too.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John