Frank Winfird Millar, born 1885, was one of three young Education Department clerks who were instrumental in the founding of the Public Service Association in 1913. In May 1913 Millar was appointed secretary of the Wellington branch, and a few months later he was elected part-time general secretary. In January 1914 there appeared the first issue of the Public Service Journal, with Millar as editor.
Throughout the war years, while continuing to work in the Education Department, Millar acted as PSA general secretary; but as membership grew beyond 5,000 the burden became too much. In September 1919 he became the first fulltime employee of the union.
Historian Bert Roth wrote: “Millar's contract provided that he was not subject to fixed office hours and he retained the right to undertake 'any other business or work on his own account' as long as it did not interfere with his commitments to the PSA. He was not paid for his work as editor of the monthly Public Service Journal, but he received a commission on advertisements he secured.
Millar's energy was prodigious. He frequently travelled the country, visiting journal advertisers and enrolling new members. Short, balding, yet always fastidious about his appearance, when told by a friend that members had complained that he smoked cigars and wore spats while most public servants couldn't afford either, Millar replied with a grin: 'You tell them that Frank Millar smoked cigars and wore spats long before he could afford them too.'
Known as 'The Great Salesman', Millar acquired an unsurpassed knowledge of the procedures of the public service, which he used in his frequent appearances in support of officers before the Public Service Board of Appeal. He early realised the need for co-operation among public service organisations, but he shied away from contact with private sector unions and from any political entanglements. Millar's watchwords were caution and moderation, and he maintained good contacts with ministers and public service commissioners.”
Frank Millar oversaw the growth of the PSA’s membership from 7,000 in 1935 to 20,000 in 1943. He was still general secretary and PSA Journal editor when he died on 4 September 1944.
In tributes after his death he was described as “the most significant personality of the Public Service in a generation”.
One PSA member wrote in the Journal:
“He made no effort to curry favour with anybody; he wore his spats, and smoked his cigars, when it might have been policy to discard both. That was his manner, and if at times it may have caused misunderstanding, we who were intimately associated with him well knew that his outward appearance concealed a warm heart and a ready hand. The Service will never know how many acts of kindness he performed, for he was not the type of man who advertised his virtues. His death was not only a loss to the Service, it was a loss to New Zealand. We who knew him well will not forget him.”