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home : features : people & places February 5, 2016

6/2/2010 11:31:00 AM
Work and now retirement invigorating for APS's Mike Johnsen
Mike Johnson has been a familiar face in the community throughout his career with APS.TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz
Mike Johnson has been a familiar face in the community throughout his career with APS.

TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz

Cheryl Hartz
News Editor

As a longtime community relations liaison for Arizona Public Service, Mike Johnsen was a familiar face at many a special project throughout Quad-city communities, from schoolyard landscaping to United Way campaigns.

"My APS work was just a gift," said Johnsen, who retired in April after 34 years with the company. "It allowed me to work and connect with people and I love that. I got to work in something beneficial not just to me, but to those I serve."

Johnsen, who grew up in Phoenix, earned his Associates Degree in graphic and commercial art and also studied engineering. He worked five years for Motorola before taking a draftsman's job at APS.

"I drew maps and whatever, all by hand. Now it's computerized," Johnsen said. He said learning map drawing was fun. He traveled all around the state, sometimes on horseback to site locations for poles for the ranchers. As he became like a surveyor, he also learned the electric system.

"That set the foundation to know and grow in the business," he said.

From there he went to customer service, and then system operations, a task that entails keeping the lights on and restoring power after failures.

Along the way he moved to Prescott, where he and his wife, Terry, had family ties. In fact, it's where he met his wife of 38 years. Terry was working for one of his uncles at the A&W and lived next door to another uncle.

Johnsen's best career development - getting into the people sector - began with building relationships with key customers as a key account rep.

"I worked with hospitals, schools, colleges and big companies such as Printpack and Ace Retail," he said. "Then I was accepted into the community relations job."

That job saw him working countywide, from Wickenburg to Sedona.

"It was a great development for me to go from draftsmen to community relations," he said. "I enjoyed every step of the way."

He said he always wanted to learn more and told APS from the time of hire, "'You pick me to do whatever work it is and I'll do it,' making sure I did right for the business."

He immersed himself in community service beyond his job, with terms on the Chino Valley Chamber of Commerce and Prescott Valley Chamber of Commerce boards, the SCORE advisory council, Prescott Area Leadership (PAL) and the Economic Development Committee (chairman for 9 years).

He said the three-pronged partnership between the Town of Prescott Valley, Chamber of Economic Development created positive additions, including the Business Academy and the entrepreneurial class at Bradshaw Mountain High School.

He also was active in forming Team Up to Clean Up, helped Prescott Valley get its Tree City USA designation with Arbor Day activities and served on the Parks and Rec committee as well as the steering committee for the non-profit Yavapai Community Collaborative.

"One of my most satisfying efforts representing business was to help develop the Verde Valley Leadership Program," he said. "It was phenomenal to see that from conception to full-blown program that will be an asset in community development."

His work with schools has been even more satisfying.

"Getting grants for schools with the Phoenix Suns mini-programs is probably the best I could do in my job," he said. "To see what the teachers and kids were doing - working and learning like that - was huge in personal reward."

Johnsen began preparing for retirement more than two years ago. He's in the middle of a 5-year program, studying to be an ordained deacon for the Catholic Church - something he said people have been urging him to do for 20 years.

"I didn't feel 'fit' for that work, but I finally surrendered," he said. "The work I did with APS in community relations, with a lot of outreach and working with non-profits, helped prepare me. The skills and knowledge I gained I can utilize."

He tries to hike three miles every morning and serves on the Community Forest Trust's board of stewardship for the Prescott National Forest, to help with trail maintenance and preservation.

"Our public lands are very valuable and it's important to me that APS has a sense of stewardship with the community. They are respectful of forest and tribal lands," Johnsen said.

He finds time to study on business development for Terry's Christian bookstore, All God's Children, at the Depot Marketplace in Prescott.

The couple raised three daughters and a son, who gave them 17 grandchildren. Retirement should allow more time to visit them, but with all the irons he has in the fire, they'd better plan to continue their trips to Prescott.

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