After Butler County Controller Jack McMillin retires at the end of the year, he’ll be fishing, writing poetry and hiking up a mountain.
“I’m going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro,” McMillin said in an interview.
Along with mountain climbing in Africa, McMillin plans on indulging his passion for composing verse.
A writer of sonnets, McMillin jokingly compared himself to renowned poet Emily Dickinson.
He said someday someone would publish his poems after finding them stashed in a shoebox — similar to what happened in Dickinson’s case.
McMillin, 60, of Zelienople also wants to spend more time with his children, Rebecca, 21, who lives in Delaware, and John, 18.
After some reflection, McMillin decided to make this term his last.
“There’s never a perfect time,” he said. “For me, this was the right time.”
McMillin, who has been controller since 1994, also was discouraged by politics at the local and federal level.
“I have in recent times been somewhat troubled by the lack of political backbone,” he said.
McMillin cited the federal “fiscal cliff” and this year’s county budget process as examples.
“No one is addressing the hard issues,” he said.
But McMillin may not be done with public office, though. He is considering running for county commissioner in 2015.
“You never rule anything out,” McMillin said.
Debbie Huth, McMillin’s deputy controller, has not yet decided whether to run for his seat this spring.
“I just found out Sunday,” she said. “I would really need time to think about it.”
McMillin said Huth would be his first choice to succeed him because she would be the most qualified candidate.
“I would absolutely endorse her,” he said.
Even before McMillin’s announcement Monday, there was a candidate for controller.
Republican Ben Holland, 26, of Connoquenessing Township, a former Butler School Board member, has been campaigning for several weeks, going door-to-door.
As of this morning, Holland, the accounting manager for the Pittsburgh office of the McKesson Corp., was not prepared to officially announce his candidacy.
McMillin said his successor needs to possess two traits: “Have a thick skin and a sense of humor.”
Jeff Smith, chairman of the Butler County Republican Committee, said McMillin’s departure will significantly alter the political landscape.
“Jack was an institution in Butler County government,” Smith said. “People may not always agree with his positions on issues, but no one could say he didn’t have the best interests of the county at heart.”
Smith said there are other potential candidates for the controller seat.
“I’m aware of a couple of individuals considering running for the office,” he said.
McMillin’s announcement didn’t surprise county Commissioner Bill McCarrier, board chairman.
McCarrier said McMillin recently told him he was pondering retirement.
He praised the controller’s emphasis on controlling costs.
“I certainly respect his tenacity going after waste in county spending,” McCarrier said.
Bill O’Donnell, county project manager and former chief clerk, lauded McMillin.
“The one thing about Jack is he took enormous pride in the county’s financial statements — they were almost perfect,” O’Donnell said.
He said even when McMillin did not agree with O’Donnell, he handled it professionally.
“When we disagreed,” O’Donnell said, “we respectfully disagreed. We were always able to work things out.”