Alan Mikkelsen, a St. Ignatius native whose work as a consultant focused on water law and who previously served as campaign manager for Ryan Zinke’s congressional bid, was named the deputy commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Zinke, the new secretary of the interior, and Bureau of Reclamation Acting Commissioner David Murillo announced the appointment on April 20.
“Alan Mikkelsen is a westerner who has decades of experience in all things water issues to include irrigation projects, Tribal water compacts, conservation, and even a long-term fishing guide,” said Zinke, a Whitefish native who now leads the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Reclamation. “His decades of experience working to conserve water and improve water infrastructure in government and private sectors will be a huge asset as we work to strengthen water security and quality in the West.”
“Alan’s extensive experience working with various stakeholders in the western United States will be a great asset for Reclamation,” said Murillo.
Mikkelsen previously ran a consulting business in St. Ignatius that focused on public policy and government affairs, including water rights, land acquisition, wildlife, timber and agricultural issues. He has represented various public and private natural resource clients and represented various irrigation districts before the U.S. Congress, according to interior officials.
Mikkelsen comes from a fourth generation farming and ranching family in the Jocko and Mission valleys in western Montana. He previously served as the executive director of the Flathead Joint Board of Control, a collective representing irrigators that formerly oversaw the Flathead Irrigation Project on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
In 2013, he testified at the state Legislature in support of the Flathead water compact, saying it was the only way a positive future could be secured for the irrigation project and the reservation as a whole.
He took over as Zinke’s campaign manager in August 2013 when Zinke was seeking Montana’s congressional seat and served until April 2015.
In 1996, Mikkelsen ran for the U.S. House and lost in a three-way Republican primary. In 2000, he managed Denny Rehberg’s first congressional campaign and after Rehberg won, he was named chief of staff and served from January 2001 to February 2002.
Mikkelsen studied Agricultural Economics at the University of Montana and Montana State University.
Since August 2015, Mikkelsen has worked as a fishing guide for Jarretts Guide Service in Idaho.
The Bureau of Reclamation is tasked with managing, developing and protecting the nation’s water resources and infrastructure, such as hydropower plants.