Elevator Mechanic John Miller is right where he wants to be

John Miller with his daughters arm around him

John R. Miller

John R. Miller, who maintains and repairs elevators all over campus, has a three-generation connection to Michigan and says he hopes that his kids will also work for the university someday.

John began working for the university in 2001. His father, an electrician, also named John Miller, retired from U-M in December 2012. His grandfather, Robert Dean Miller, an electrical inspector, worked for U-M for 38 years. Other Miller relatives who have worked for the university include a great, great uncle, an aunt, and John's wife Lucinda.

John graduated from Onsted High School, and set out on the same path as his father and grandfather. He began in building services, became a maintenance mechanic, received a trade apprenticeship in 2005, and is currently a journeyman elevator mechanic serving the Ann Arbor campus.

Man of few words

John is a big man, a quiet man, a man of few words, who knows who he is and what he wants. He prefers steering clear of office politics and problems that cross the desks of those in "higher" positions.

On a typical day, he gets to work by 7 a.m., picks up his schedule at the Biomedical Science Research Building loading dock, and starts the business of maintaining and repairing elevators all over campus.

He services roughly 30-40 elevators, wheelchair lifts, dumb waiters, and escalators. "Virtually anything that goes up and down," he says.

"Not a day goes by that at least one elevator doesn't need service," he adds.

A worrier

John's "aha" moment came a while back when he realized that he and his work were a perfect fit.

"I'm an anxious guy," he says. "A worrier. I've been a worrier since I was in elementary school. I think that makes me a better mechanic. I kind of obsess about the safety of things."

While technology advances make things like pay phones and card catalogues obsolete John says he feels secure in knowing "we'll always need elevators." The old ones, he says, "still go clackety clack," and the new ones "plug into a PC."

"Best job you'll ever have"

One thing John says he enjoys about his job is that he is always learning.

When asked why he wants his three sons and one daughter, all under 13, to work at U-M, he says, "I want everyone I know to work here.

"If you have the type of personality where you can skim over some of the politics, it's the best job you'll ever have.

"I've made lifelong friends here.

"I'm where I want to be," he says.

- Jan Schlain