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Former Michigan Gov. Bill Milliken remembered at Interlochen

Courtesy Bill Milliken, Jr.

When the late William Grawn Milliken first told his mother about his aspirations to serve in government, she told him to be a “statesman, not a politician.” He went on to be Michigan’s longest-serving governor, make the state a national leader in environmental policy and leave a legacy of civility and bipartisan public service.

Watch a recording of the memorial eventon Facebook. 

Milliken served as governor from 1969 to 1983. The Traverse City native was famous for his staunch support of conservation and protecting Michigan's natural resources. He championed environmental measures like the 10 cent bottle law, which requires manufacturers to take back pop and beer cans.


“He actually, I think, helped pull the nation and the world into a new era of environmental responsibility with a whole bunch of firsts that happened here in Michigan,” says Bill Rustem, a former advisor to the late governor.

"Part of that was because he grew up in Traverse City. He always commented that he 'always had one foot in the sand' and that's the way he described his growing up and that mattered to him and those issues really mattered to him," Rustem added.


Gov. Milliken also became an example of a political leader not afraid to cross party lines and work with others. The republican governor was known for a centrist, common-sense approach to issues.
“He was willing to sit down with people from wherever and listen, and then make a reasoned decision — a reasoned compromise often — and move the state forward,” Rustem says.

William G. Milliken will be remembered during a celebration of his life on Thursday, August 6, at 2 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium at Interlochen Center for the Arts. Listen live on the IPR News Radio stream or at WICA-FM 91.5, WLMN-FM 89.7 and WHBP-FM 90.1.

Speakers remembering Milliken will include current Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Bill Rustem, a senior policy advisor in both the Milliken and Snyder administrations; Arlyn Brower, a retired Michigan State Police Captain; Chuck Stokes, moderator and producer of “Spotlight On The News” on WXYZ-TV; and journalist and longtime friend Jack Lessenberry.


The memorial service is free and open to the public with limited seating because of health and safety considerations. Please visit Eventbrite to register. Registration does not confirm a reservation. 


Interlochen Center for the Arts is a fitting venue to celebrate Milliken's life as he was a strong advocate for the arts and served as an Interlochen trustee from 1983 to 1997.

Listen to the radio broadcast of the memorial service.

Peter Payette is the Executive Director of Interlochen Public Radio.
Dan Wanschura is the Host and Executive Producer of Points North.