National early childhood expert appointed as ECECD Deputy Secretary

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Press Release

February 17, 2023


Jessica Preston
PR Specialist

Mobile: (505) 699-5937
1120 Paseo De Peralta
Santa Fe, NM 87501

SANTA FE – Today, the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) announced that nationally recognized early childhood education expert Sara Mickelson has been appointed as ECECD Deputy Secretary. Mickelson has over 13 years of early childhood experience, beginning her career as a Head Start teacher and most recently serving as Director of Early Childhood Initiatives for Harris County, TX – the 3rd most populus county in the nation.  

“Sara Mickelson is a nationally respected leader in early education and care and I am excited that she has joined our team as Deputy Secretary,” said Elizabeth Groginsky, ECECD Cabinet Secretary. “Sara brings an impressive range of expertise in public/private partnerships, implementing innovative early childhood policies and practices, and strategically expanding early childhood programs to equitably serve more families and children.” 

“New Mexico is truly on the leading edge of early childhood education and care nationwide, and I’m thrilled to join the team at ECECD that is doing such exciting and innovative things for New Mexico families,” said Mickelson. “I inherited my love for education and my love for New Mexico from my grandmother, who was a cofounder of the Turtle Mountain Community College in Belcourt, ND. She traveled to New Mexico often to meet with Tribal education leaders, and she made me promise to move to New Mexico if I ever got the opportunity. Today, I fulfill that promise to her and look forward to helping New Mexico fulfill its promise to build a universal, high-quality early childhood system that fully supports families and young children.” 

Prior to joining ECECD, Mickelson served as the Director of Early Childhood Initiatives for Harris County, TX, leading the largest local investment in child care in the nation. In her role with Harris County, Mickelson established a $50 million program to contract with child care providers to create 1,000 infant and toddler slots a year—an innovative financing strategy to ensure infants and toddlers have access to high-quality early childhood education. 

 “New Mexico is lucky to have a leader like Sara Mickelson during this extraordinary time for young children in the state. Sara has demonstrated her ability to lead large-scale change that improves the lives of children, their families, and early childhood educators,” said Miriam Calderon, Chief of Policy at ZERO TO THREE, “I am excited to see how Sara will bring her experience to lead on behalf of New Mexico’s infants and toddlers in the first 1,000 days of life and beyond.”    

Mickelson also served as Chief of Programs and Chief of Staff for the Oregon Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education. During her time in Oregon, Mickelson led the implementation of the Student Success Act, which doubled the Early Learning Division’s budget from $200 million to $400 million, enabling a historic expansion of state PreK, state-funded Head Start/Early Head Start, and other early childhood education and care programs. Mickelson also supported the creation of Oregon’s Department of Early Learning and Care in 2021. 

Mickelson also worked for the Bainum Family Foundation, where she led the policy strategy that resulted in the District of Columbia Birth-to-Three for All Act, a comprehensive law that led to expanded and improved early childhood supports in health and education. 

Mickelson holds degrees in Philosophy and English Literature from the University of Minnesota, and a Masters in Urban Education Policy from Brown University. 



Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham launched the New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) in 2020, making New Mexico among the first states to consolidate all early childhood programs and services under a single cabinet-level agency. Under this administration, ECECD has led the nation by expanding access to free New Mexico PreK, overseeing the largest investment in early childhood infrastructure in state history, and implementing cost-free child care for a majority of New Mexico families. Learn more about how ECECD supports children, families, and the early childhood professionals that serve our communities at On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as @NewMexicoECECD.