LOCUST — At the Locust City Council meeting earlier this month, the Locust Police Department officially recognized department Chaplain Mario Miller as its selection for the city’s 2023 Citizen of the Year award.
“I knew in January 2023 that Mario Miller was going to be our citizen of the year and all he continued to do throughout the year was solidify that opinion,” Locust Police Chief Jeff Shew said while presenting the award to Miller.
Named as a chaplain in July to work as a motivator, supporter and encourager for Locust’s officers, Miller is a 16-year US Army veteran who served multiple tours in combat areas including Iraq and Somalia.
He is the author of the book, “Poems and Prayers,” that he wrote after his military service and salvation.
Residing in Locust with his family for almost two years, Miller, 60, also participates in regular mission and outreach with the homeless, widows and veterans in several areas of the state including Fayetteville and Charlotte.
“The Locust Police Department congratulates Chaplain Mario Miller for this well-deserved honor, and we thank him so much for all he does in his daily witness, encouragement, and positivity for all those he meets in and around Locust, and for his unwavering support and encouragement for the officers of the Locust Police Department,” the LPD said in a public statement.
In the LPD’s signed 2023 Citizen of the Year award for Miller, the department detailed a story from March 2023 where Locust officers responded to a suicide threat from a homeless military veteran in the parking lot of the city’s Walmart.
Miller spent most of the day with the veteran learning his story while buying him meals and arranging for him to get the help for the issues he was having. The veteran has since found gainful employment and has reconnected with estranged family members.
“[Miller’s] boisterous personality and positivity have become well-known around Locust and surrounding areas including his regular visits to numerous Locust businesses, the Locust Government Center, West Stanly Senior Center, Locust VFW post, West Stanly Rotary Club, West Stanly Christian Ministries, and many many more,” the LPD’s statement continued. “He has also made it a regular practice to visit area law enforcement agencies and fire departments to offer his support, encouragement, and prayer.”
Started in 2021, the third-annual award honors a Locust citizen or citizen associated with the city that “has performed exemplary deeds or services for their city or their fellow citizens, and/or exhibits a strong sense of selflessness, caring, and responsibility.”
Autumn Huneycutt — a then-first grade student at Locust Elementary — was given the award in 2021 while Travis McKinney — a loss prevention associate at the city’s Walmart — received it in 2022.