Mikkelson livens up newsroom

........................................................................................................................................................................................

Susann Mikkelson came to work as a sports and general assignment reporter for El Defensor Chieftain in May, not a moment too soon.

“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” Mikkelson said during a stroll around the plaza Tuesday. “That was my first major in college, journalism.”

Susann Mikkelson

Mikkelson graduated from Northern Arizona University in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in public relations; she minored in psychology. She also holds a master’s from DePaul University in Chicago, where she was enrolled in a field-based leadership and community development program from 2000 to 2002.

Mikkelson’s knowledge of sports comes from firsthand participation in sports like volleyball and basketball, plus from paying attention as a fan.

“I’m still learning,” she said.

Mikkelson, a native of Catron County, lived several years in Colorado where she worked in fundraising and cooperative business development. She continues to work as a consultant cooperative development specialist in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Mikkelson returned to Socorro about three years ago. She explained she wanted to live in a place where she has a support system including many old friends.

Born in Belen, Mikkelson was raised in Datil on a small cattle ranch her family owned there. Her great-great-grandparents, the Baldwins, settled Datil in 1882 with the first post office. Her parents sold the ranch when she was in high school, which she attended in Quemado.

None of Mikkelson’s family resides in Datil anymore, “sadly.” She would like to return to Datil as she prefers the lifestyle of a small community — the smaller, the better.

In addition to the ranch, Mikkelson’s parents supported the family with a small contracting business. Her father, Lee Graham, did a little of everything, but mainly installed water systems — laying pipeline, installing drink tanks, building and installing water storage tanks for livestock, and installing sewer systems for rural homes. He also contracted with the U.S. Forest Service and the telephone company.

Mikkelson’s mother, Bonnie, worked in the schools as a school cook and as a bus driver. Bonnie also helped Lee Graham on the ranch, plus cared for the family and anyone in their small community who needed it. She later moved to Socorro and worked for Monette Ford.

Lee Graham was Datil’s volunteer fire chief during most of Mikkelson’s childhood, and her grandfather Claude Graham was the volunteer fire chief before him. Mikkelson’s father also dug most of the graves of anyone buried in Datil while she was growing up, another service he performed free for the community. He also served on several local boards, including the Catron County Fair Board and a board for what is now the National Resource Conservation District.

Mikkelson’s mother was involved with the booster club, CowBelles and other groups, as well as served as an election judge every year. She was also known for taking in every stray animal that was dumped in the town.