Sullivan Recognizes Miller Family and Santa Claus House as “Alaskans of the Week”

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) recognized the Miller Family, longtime owners and operators of the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska, on the Senate floor. The Santa Claus House, opened by Con and Nellie Miller more than 70 years ago, is a staple for tourism in Interior Alaska, and attracts thousands of guests every year from across the world to experience the magic of Christmas in the real North Pole. For decades, the Miller family has brought Christmas cheer all year round—all while getting involved in and giving back to the community. The Miller family and Santa Claus House were recognized as part of Sen. Sullivan’s series, “Alaskan of the Week.” 

Tribute to the Miller Family 

Madam President, I am going to end my remarks today on a high note and a very important one. 

It is Wednesday. I like to come down and do what we call the “Alaskan of the Week.” I can see the pages are already kind of excited, right, because, let's face it, this is the most exciting speech of the week and certainly the most interesting.  

So what I like to do is come down--by the way, I know the press generally likes it because it is normally a signal that it is the end of the week.  Everybody is going home. This is usually the last speech of the week. I think this might be the last speech of the year this year. 

What we do with the Alaskan of the Week, we talk a little bit about what is going on in Alaska--I will get to that--and then I like to highlight someone who is doing something great for my State. 

It might be, you know, someone local. Our first Alaskan of the Week, I think, was a librarian who had been a librarian for 40 years--amazing woman--and then we have superstar world athletes, gold medalists in swimming, and things like that. So we just cover the whole gamut. 


Now, usually there is a poster board. I made this a very special Alaskan of the Week poster board. This might be the first time ever it has got Santa on it, and you are going to see why--a Santa-oriented speech. 


So, of course, right now, I am getting ready to head home in a couple of hours. I was just home over the weekend. There are no worries in Alaska right now about a white Christmas. Anchorage, my hometown, I think we have had close to 100 inches of snow already. Look, for us, that is a lot. I am talking about November, right. So we have a white Christmas coming, for sure. 

It is magical, of course, in Alaska. We have got reindeer. We have  got one that actually lives in downtown Anchorage. We have visitors coming. We have got a great town called North Pole, AK--North Pole, AK--and we have the Santa Claus House in North Pole, where Santa lives. By the way, this is true. This is what my Alaskan of the Week speech is all about. 

If you write a letter to Santa addressed to the North Pole, your letter will end up at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK. Why wouldn't it? 

By the way, this house is not to be confused with the abode of a North Pole city council member. North Pole, AK, is a city a little bit north of Fairbanks. This city council member, by the way, his name is Santa Claus. His legal name is Santa Claus. He is a member of the city council. I know him well. Look, I am not ripping him. He is a Bernie Sanders Socialist, true. Now, why wouldn't he be? You know, the guy gives out free gifts to everybody. That is true. He is a good guy. So, Santa, if you are watching, hello--Santa Claus, city council member, North Pole. 

But in all seriousness, Interior Alaska--this is in the interior part of our State--has the greatest, most kind people and generous. And in keeping with the spirit of Christmas, our Alaskan of the Week is the Miller family who is the owner of Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK, which has been a fixture in our State--and really for the country--for over 70 years--70 years. The Miller family founded Santa Claus House and has been running it for 70 years, making North Pole, AK, literally what it is today. They built the whole community. 

Let me help you get into the holiday spirit by describing just how magical the Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK, really is. If you drive down Saint Nicholas Drive--I am not kidding--by St. Nicholas Catholic Church, by the way, you will see a huge house lined with red trim and murals of a reindeer and Santa's sleigh. Just outside is a barn with a real reindeer, a massive, decked-out Christmas tree, and a 42-foot-tall Santa Claus statue welcoming you to Santa's workshop. 

The magic does not end there. Inside the house, you are greeted by a Christmas tree decorated with every ornament you can imagine, a live countdown to Christmas Day--of course. Why wouldn't there be one every day of the year--and a professional Santa Claus ready to hear every Christmas wish from the thousands of visitors--and I am not just talking Alaskans but Americans, people from all over the world who visit Santa Claus House in North Pole, AK, every year. And you are also likely to meet and see several members of the extended Miller family working to make the Santa Claus House the winter wonderland it is. They have been doing it for four generations, keeping the spirit of Christmas alive. 

Let me take you back four generations to the original founder of Santa Claus House. That is Con and Nellie Miller. Born in 1913, Con and his mother just didn't see eye to eye. They decided that it was best that he join the Navy. 

He joined when he was 15--a little young. This is just in the great Alaska spirit. You know, I have talked about it a lot over the years. We have more veterans per capita than any State in the country, so being in the military and a veteran is very normal in Alaska. It is a great part of our culture. 

This young guy Con left Colorado and spent 3 years in the Navy, starting at the age of 15. How he got in, I have no idea. He was on a gun boat in China. Then he got out. Then Pearl Harbor happened. And of course he is a patriot so he rejoined the Navy. He fought in the South Pacific during the Second World War--so a great American, “greatest generation” individual, Con Miller. 

After the war ended, Con and his wife Nellie ended up in Fairbanks with the goal of running a clothing store. To supplement their income, Con sold clothes in the surrounding rural villages, often donning a red Santa suit each Christmas. He quickly earned celebrity status as the local Santa Claus in Interior Alaska--the first that many children had ever seen--ever--in rural Alaska. 

In 1952, the Millers built a trading post 13 miles south of Fairbanks in the newly named North Pole, AK. So just a little south of Fairbanks, the big city in the interior. One day, while working hard at his new store, a young Alaskan boy recognized Con and asked: Well, hello, Santa. Are you building a new house? The inspiration clicked, and Con thought, Hey, why not? Let's do  this. And so the Santa Claus House was born. 

In addition to purchasing groceries, locals could mingle at the soda fountain and pick up their daily mail at the Santa Claus House under the direction of the post mistress, Nellie Miller--Con's, a.k.a. Santa's, wife. It was a mail contract station that served North Pole's first post office for almost 20 years. So there you have it, North Pole, AK, became a post office for America. 


The Miller family lived above the store and was essential to its operation. All three kids: Terry, Mike, and Merry--yes, Merry Christmas, spelled M-E-R-R-Y, not M-A-R-Y--worked alongside their parents. Despite their insight behind the scenes as employees, current owner and manager Mike said they believed in Santa as much as anyone else. Of course, they did. Everybody believes in Santa. 

As North Pole grew--it is growing; it is a great community, like I said, just a few miles outside of Fairbanks--the Santa Claus House grew with it. Inside the store's emphasis on Christmas delights slowly replaced the aisles of canned goods. Meanwhile, the Miller family established themselves as pillars of the North Pole community--not only North Pole but all of Interior Alaska. 

Con Miller served as the mayor of North Pole for 19 years--the city's longest serving mayor-while Nellie Miller acted as a marriage commissioner for the community. Back then, that was a real job, a marriage commissioner. 

Eventually, both of their sons, Terry and Mike, also found politics. The late Terry Miller was a State legislator. He was president of the State senate and was elected to be our Lieutenant Governor in 1978. Mike, who was helping around the Santa Claus House, also served in the legislature as senate president from 1983 to 2001. This is a dominating political family in Alaska, two State senate presidents. 

I knew the Millers. They are a great, great family. Both Miller brothers, very highly respected across the aisle. This is, and was, and has been a great family committed to public service. 

Begun over 70 years ago by Con and Nellie Miller, the Santa Claus House continues as following generations of Millers keep up that Christmas spirit and keep it thriving in North Pole, AK. It is still a family-run business. 

Mike Miller is looking forward to the next generation continuing to run the family business with his daughter Carissa and son-in-law Paul and staffed by several grandchildren. Isn't this just a wonderful story? It really warms your heart as we head into the holiday season. 

We all know Santa's job is a hard one, and it is also no small job running the Santa Claus House for the world. In addition to the family, there are between 40 and 60 employees year-round working there. 

Besides being a delightful tourist attraction worldwide, the Santa Claus House understands the true meaning of Christmas and uses its name recognition for good works in the community, organizing food drives for the Fairbanks Food Bank that is used throughout Interior Alaska and many other charities. 

Mike said: I think we have really worked hard to bring the spirit of Santa to our community, “the spirit of giving and family and caring about one another. I hope we have done a small slice [in this service] of helping people to realize that Christmas is about caring about one another, giving, and [about] being good neighbors.'' 

That is Mike Miller. 

They have done that in a huge way. They have done more than give a small slice. For the past 70 years, they have given their all toward spreading the magic, the wonder, and the joy of Christmas to Alaskans, to Americans, to people all over the world. 

So thank you to the Miller family and to the incredible institution of the Santa Claus House in North Pole for making our State a more jolly place, a more generous place, a more caring place, and for keeping the spirit of Christmas alive--not just now during the holidays but year-round in the great State of Alaska. 

And, of course, to the Millers and Santa Claus House, congratulations on being our Alaskan of the Week. 

I yield the floor. 

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