Israel Henry Milton, a former Miami-Dade assistant county manager, felt that growing up in Miami’s Brownsville neighborhood helped shape his values as a county administrator.
“We came up with a little more sense of community and family because it was still a neighborhood. Most of the people living in Brown Sub owned their homes, no matter how meager they were, and that made a difference,” Milton said in a 1995 Miami Herald story on the eve of his retirement after more than 30 years as a mainstay in county government.
Milton, who died at 85 on May 30, was characterized by his passion for rebuilding struggling communities. He was a director of the Model City program, an initiative in the Brownsville, Liberty City, Gladeview, Manor Park and Edison Center areas that pushed to revamp low-income neighborhoods by tapping federal funds to improve infrastructure, social services and to link and empower residents.
“It was a model way for local communities to have an input in decisions that make up their lives,” Milton said in a 1984 Miami Herald story. That year, then-County Manager Merrett Stierheim appointed Milton, a former director of the county’s Human Resources Department, staff director of the Metro-Miami Action Plan to drive economic development, education and criminal justice sensitivity.
Milton, an avid golfer in his retirement, as well as a board member of the Orange Bowl Committee, the Doral Club Advisory Board and National Forum for Black Public Administrators, was a 1951 graduate of Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach. There, he earned the nickname “Shoulders” for his broad build on the varsity basketball team.
After graduation, Milton worked in public administration in New York and returned to Miami in 1967 to continue his career with county government. In the early 1970s, Milton opened the first of the Department of Human Resources Neighborhood Service Centers that led to the creation of police stations, branch libraries and parks.
“Israel was held in high regard as a good listener, very able administrator, and a straight shooter,” said Alfred Holzman, a former division chief with Miami-Dade County’s Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“There was a bond and a dedication among these minority government professionals. They quietly got things done, effectively dealt with key issues in black communities, were consulted by politicians, and helped to expand the number of African-Americans in county government. They made a real difference. I really admired him,” Holzman wrote in an email.
Milton is survived by his children Addie, Otha, Charles and Israel Jr. and eight grandchildren. Services were held.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.