Traverse City Record-Eagle

Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary

November 8, 2009

After looking back, we look to the future

TRAVERSE CITY -- The name Milliken paves a long road through the life of Traverse City.

Town fathers Perry Hannah and A. Tracy Lay, who transformed a lumbering outpost into a prosperous city from 1851 to 1900, certainly left enduring marks on the city.

And so have James W. Milliken, James T. Milliken and William G. Milliken.

This father, son and grandson -- through progressive leadership, stewardship and strong reputations for integrity -- provide a lasting legacy and strong link between the city's pioneer past, present and possibly its future.

All three were city business leaders and state senators. Bill Milliken, now 87, was the state's longest-serving governor, a tenure that stretched from 1969 to 1983, an intense time in American and state politics.

His leadership spanned the civil rights and Vietnam eras, environmental disaster on the Great Lakes, federal recognition of Indian treaty fishing rights, the move toward community mental health programs and recession.

Bill Milliken's environmental leadership gave Michigan one of the strongest state environmental protection acts in the nation, a bottle deposit bill, the Wetlands Protection Act, truth-in-pollution laws, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and a hazardous waste act.

Since leaving office, his advocacy and call for a Great Lakes consciousness "helped shape the issue for years to come," environmental historian Dave Dempsey wrote in his 2006 biography: "William G. Milliken: Michigan's Passionate Moderate."

In this last installment of the Record-Eagle's year-long 150th Anniversary History Project series, native son Milliken pondered the future, including the question: What will the Traverse City area be like in 2159?

The same question was posed to four other area leaders -- George McManus, Marsha Smith, Derek Bailey and Joe VanderMeulen (see links in sidebar).

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