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20 under 40: Keyaira Phillips Miller: Waterloo roots run deep

20 under 40: Keyaira Phillips Miller: Waterloo roots run deep

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Fourth in a series on this year’s 20 Under 40 winners.

WATERLOO — A job may have pulled her to Cedar Rapids.

But Keyaira Phillips Miller still lives and remains firmly rooted in the Waterloo community that helped her become the woman she is today.

“It was always important to me, wherever I go professionally, that I still am in Waterloo to be able to give back and have an impact within the community,” Miller said.

“Over the years and as I’ve seen the Cedar Valley growing up, it’s changed for the better in so many ways,” she added. “I can see the picture clear here in the Cedar Valley, and I just want to lend a helping hand.”

Miller commutes daily to her job as a senior sourcing manager at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, serving as a key contact and meeting with suppliers to ensure parts arrive on time.

But the 34-year-old returns to her home in Waterloo, where she graduated from West High School and the University of Northern Iowa, and where her family carved out a legacy in the minority business community.

Keyah Levy, who nominated Miller for the Courier’s 20 Under 40 Award, cited the long list of organizations where Miller volunteers her time and talents.

“Keyaira has served as a champion for many organizations both professionally and personally,” Levy said. “Her education, experience and upbringing has shaped her into the passionate, intelligent and transformative leader she is today.”

Miller currently serves as the president of Club Les Dames, having previously benefited from the organization as a debutante while in high school. She’s a 13-year member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, which provides outreach and mentoring to young women related to career management skills, resume writing, financial literacy and more.

Miller also serves on the Black Hawk County Gaming Association board, which distributes grants to worthwhile community projects and programs.

“It allows us to get a really good insight in the activities and the projects they want to get done here in the Cedar Valley,” she said. “We’ve granted to big hitters like the SportsPlex. It’s nice to have a pulse on that.”

Miller said she learned a lot about the area from her family.

“That legacy of being in the community and fostering that, I get that from my grandpa, Denman,” she said.

The late Denman Phillips Sr. founded one of the first African-American construction firms in Waterloo during the 1940s, ran for the Iowa House of Representatives in 1964 and became the first black member of the board of directors of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce.

Miller’s father, Terry Phillips, is also a successful construction contractor, while her aunt, Imogene Jones, was the first African-American reporter hired by the Courier and later became the first black staff member at NBC News.

Miller said she sees herself continuing to be involved in the community for the long run, noting it can be very satisfying.

“I kind of move quietly within the community, but I definitely just love giving back,” she said. “I love seeing people succeed, whether it’s from a career aspect or just humanity.”

‘It was always important to me, wherever I go professionally, that I still am in Waterloo to be able to give back and have an impact within the community.”

'It was always important to me, wherever I go professionally, that I still am in Waterloo to be able to give back and have an impact within the community." 

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