Funeral services were held earlier this week for Tom Mills, a former school board member and onetime president of the Normandy Civic Association.
Mills died on Aug. 2. He was 84.
Mills grew up in Frankford. He attended Ethan Allen Elementary School, the former Alexander Henry Elementary School and Harding Middle School.
At age 16, he dropped out of Frankford High School, then served some time in the U.S. Army before returning to graduate from Frankford. He used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In all, he earned four college degrees.
After graduating from Penn in 1953, he went to work in private industry and for governments and served as a consultant in jobs locally and around the country and the world.
In 1956, he and his wife, June, moved to Norcom Road in Normandy. They raised four sons, and Mills was active in the community. His battles included trying to shut down the Tattletails go-go bar on Roosevelt Boulevard near Comly Road.
In 1985, Mayor Wilson Goode appointed Mills to the school board. They had attended Penn’s Fels Center for Government together two decades earlier. On the board, Mills was the go-to member for budgeting expertise.
Mills, a Democrat and onetime 66th Ward committeeman, made three bids for office.
In 1978, he lost a primary in the 170th Legislative District.
In 1991, he unsuccessfully challenged Republican City Councilman Brian O’Neill, receiving 35 percent of the vote.
In 1996, he made an unsuccessful challenge to Republican state Sen. Hank Salvatore, taking 41 percent of the vote. Salvatore died last month.
In 1999, Mills crossed party lines to endorse Republican Sam Katz over Democrat John Street for mayor. In retaliation, the Democratic City Committee stripped him of his committee post.
Mills left the school board in 1999, having served the maximum two full six-year terms.
On the school board, Mills opposed cuts to childcare services and the distribution of condoms in public schools. He believed the school district’s former cluster setup was a waste of money.
Mills voted against a hefty pay raise for Constance Clayton, the superintendent of schools, but was otherwise a Clayton supporter.
Mills was not a supporter of another school superintendent, David Hornbeck. He challenged the accuracy of standardized test scores boasted by Hornbeck. He also faulted him for a poor relationship with the Republican-controlled state legislature, which Mills maintained hurt the school district in seeking state funding.
“Tom was an amazing mentor to me,” said Jacques Lurie, who served on the school board with Mills. “Tom was just an unbelievable wealth of knowledge. It’s a woeful understatement to say that his knowledge of budgeting was impressive. He’ll be sorely missed.”
Mills’ professional experience also included teaching finance and governmental budgeting at Penn; serving as deputy managing director under Mayor Jim Tate; and serving as deputy finance director under Mayor Bill Green.
Mills is survived by sons Thomas Jr., Stephen, Mark and Craig; brother Walter; sister Edith Tinari; and eight grandchildren. His wife, June, preceded him in death.
Memorial contributions in his name may be made to MaST Community Charter School, 1800 Byberry Road, Philadelphia, PA 19116. He served on MaST’s Board of Trustees. ••