Flagler alumni Hunter Miller: Working to protect the world’s oceans

Photo courtesy of Hunter Miller.

by Megan Churchill

Growing up in Polk County Florida, Hunter Miller has always appreciated the natural world; it wasn’t until 2017 that he was able to use his respect for the Earth to fuel his career. Miller graduated from Flagler College in 2011 with a degree in public administration, and he now holds the position of Field Campaign Manager at Oceana.

Hunter Miller at Oceana’s International Headquarters in Washington DC, 2021. Photo courtesy of Hunter Miller.

Oceana is the world’s largest international advocacy organization working to preserve the oceans. The group works to increase biodiversity by preventing overfishing, habitat destruction and plastic and oil pollution.

Miller didn’t apply for his position at Oceana directly after college.

“I really don’t have a typical story when it comes to how I got here,” Miller said. 

The economy was in a bad place when Miller graduated from Flagler in 2011. As he looked for job opportunities he kept St. Augustine in mind.

“After college I knew I wanted to stay in St. Augustine. I had no desire to leave, I loved the community,” Miller said.

Miller began working at the local St. Augustine business, Southern Horticulture. While working he also advocated for environmental protection, organizing for the group Environmental Youth Council.

“For years I did that [worked at Southern Horticulture], I worked my job and then in my spare time I was essentially an activist and an organizer,” said Miller.

Miller said that in 2015, President Obama proposed opening the Atlantic Ocean to new offshore oil drilling. Miller and the Environmental Youth Council got to work organizing campaigns to prevent this from happening. 

In their efforts they went to the White House, lobbying on capitol hill, and they organized marches in St. Augustine. They ultimately won the campaign and stopped Obama from putting oil rigs on the Atlantic coastline. 

Miller found advocating for the environment important regardless of whether he got paid for his efforts. In those first years after graduating from Flagler, he made time to commit to advocacy while also working.

”I never really thought I could get paid to do this kind of environmental advocacy work, but I eventually partnered with Oceana on a couple of things, and then, they saw the value that I could bring to their organization and encouraged me to apply to a job with them,” Miller said.

Miller’s work at Oceana

In 2017 Miller was hired for the position he now holds as Field Campaign Manager for Oceana. 

In this position, Miller works to harness community support significant enough to influence congress to pass new laws or change old ones.

In the broad picture, Oceana works to win policy victories for the Ocean. 

“We do that by winning science based policies, so trying to change laws that protect our oceans,” Miller said.

Miller addresses a crowd at the “Hands Across the Sand” event. At the event, people opposed offshore drilling that had been proposed along the Gulf Coast. Photo courtesy of Hunter Miller.

Oceana has branches stationed internationally and spread throughout the U.S.

“I work on a team of advocates that live around the country, that work in specific regions or states and that support our campaigns,” Miller said.

In his day to day work Miller interacts a lot with the community. He said Oceana gathers campaign support through a combination of grassroots organizing, political advocacy and strategic communication. 

Miller has recently been working some campaigns.

“A great example that I’m really proud of that just happened – we’ve been advocating for the last couple years to ban the intentional release of balloons…we were able to build a great diverse coalition and work to get a bill passed this legislative session in the state legislature to ban intentional balloon releases,” Miller said.

Until this law was passed each individual in Florida was legally allowed to release up to 10 balloons per day and an unlimited number of biodegradable balloons. 

Miller said gathering significant support is necessary even to pass laws which seems like common sense.

“It doesn’t just happen, it takes coalition building, and communications, and smart advocacy and government relations work.” 

Miller’s Flagler Experience

Miller’s experience at Flagler prepared him for his career after college.  

He attained skills from his major in public administration, but the people – both professors and students – were what left more of an impact. 

“Over the time I was here [at Flagler] I met people that really taught me about our individual responsibility for making sure that we protect places and species and land for future generations…,” he said.

Many of the people Miller met at Flagler were public servants. He had an impactful experience at Flagler.

“It prepared me in a lot of ways to be a better person and more equipped to be effective at my job,” Miller said.

When it comes to affecting change, for Miller the personal connections he felt at Flagler are aspects that have carried over to his work now.

Educating, learning from and convincing others in the community, is central to his work at Oceana.

“When you get together with your friends or you get together with your community, your voice is magnified and your power is exponentially stronger,” he said.  

People at the “Hands Across the Sand” event on Indian Rocks Beach in Florida. Photo courtesy of Hunter Miller.

Miller has big goals for the future and his day-to-day reality is helping him to move towards his goals.

“I just want to do good work and develop good relationships with people and the people that I work with internally and externally,” Miller said.

Miller loves living in St. Augustine with his wife and daughter and recognizes that it’s a privilege to do the work he does on a daily basis. 

Enjoying life matters to him, and the meaning of the work Miller does doesn’t come from his rank or position.

“I’m not super focused on upward mobility or trying to race to the top as quickly as possible. I really enjoy my life,” he said.

Miller said as we go through life it matters that we live sustainably to try to save the Earth.

“You know I can just remember people saying, ‘well you’re the next generation, you’re gonna save it all,’ and now I’m hearing that refrain go to the next generation and the next generation, and it keeps getting passed down…,” Miller said.

Miller emphasized that it matters that we act now. 

“It’s like ‘you know what? we all have a part to play, let’s not just keep passing on the baton to the next generation because it’s like there’s too much to lose and there’s not enough time, we all gotta pitch in,” Miller said.

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