Tribe welcomes Naranjo as Contracts and Grants Manager

Mikki Naranjo, Contracts and Grants Manager
Lovvis Downs-Glass, Retiring Contracts and Grants Manager
courtesy Mikki Naranjo
Damon Toledo | SU Drum archive

Downs-Glass retires from Finance Dept. 

Southern Ute tribal member, Mikki Naranjo, will transition into the Contracts and Grants Manager position starting Wednesday, Dec. 30, after finishing the Tribe’s apprenticeship program. Naranjo has held the Contracts and Grants Manager Apprentice position for the past 15 months under the mentorship of Lovvis Downs-Glass who is retiring. 

“Please welcome Ms. Naranjo to the Contracts and Grants Manager position. Ms. Naranjo has done an outstanding job in learning all about the Tribe’s contracts and grants program and is well-equipped and ready to assume the manager position,” said Christine Hudgens, the Permanent Fund’s Chief Financial Officer. “Thank you to Ms. Downs-Glass for her commitment to Ms. Naranjo, which was always guided by her desire to ensure Ms. Naranjo would have the necessary training and skills to succeed and excel as the Contracts and Grants Manager.” 

Naranjo was already working within the Permanent Fund’s Finance Department in 2019, as the accounts payable and receivable technician when she applied for the apprenticeship program. “I saw the position advertised and applied. It was something new for me, coming from the casino side,” she said. 

Naranjo has a Bachelor’s in accounting, which she earned at Fort Lewis College while working for the Sky Ute Casino Resort. She took advantage of a career development program offered by the Casino, which allowed her to finish college while still working for the Tribe.

Mikki Naranjo trained directly under Lovvis Downs-Glass during these past 15 months. The apprenticeship officially started in October of 2019. 

“Coming from a casino environment to Contracts and Grants … it’s been interesting,” Naranjo said. “I thought it would be a good challenge. I have a previous background with PeopleSoft and accounting, which made my apprenticeship easier and more understandable.”

Downs-Glass, the previous Contracts and Grants Manager, proposed that her position in the Finance Department be advertised under the Tribe’s Tribal Member Apprenticeship Program, which lets a Southern Ute tribal member train under a director or division head in order to eventually step into the position themselves and succeed their mentor. 

“I believe that tribal members should have management positions in the Tribe.  I knew the right tribal member could do a great service to be Tribe, so I applied to the apprentice program,” Downs-Glass said. 

Downs-Glass has worked for the Tribe in a number of capacities since 2010 and has set her eye on retirement. “I truly am retiring; I really am ready to retire, spend time with my husband and horses – travel once covid lifts.”

“I desperately wanted a tribal member to have this job and I found the perfect tribal member. It has been a huge blessing!” she said. “This apprenticeship program has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It been such a pleasure to work with Mikki, and we’ve gotten to be such good friends.”

Naranjo also thought it was a positive experience. “Having Lovvis as a mentor, with all her knowledge, working for the Tribe in different departments    she brought a lot of experience,” Naranjo said. “Having a good mentor, and self-motivation and determination made the apprenticeship go pretty smooth. Work ethic, is one of the strong points I brought to the program.” 

Naranjo cited her parents as her inspiration and motivation. “I’ve learned a lot from my parents, that have passed on — Dixie and Eugene Naranjo. To go to work, and make myself independent,” she said. “Once you start something, finish it all the way, I learned that from my parents.” 

Although Naranjo has finished her apprenticeship, she’s still learning. “I am getting used to the government process, the procedures and the policies. Learning about BIA 633 contracts, and other contracts the Tribe has. Plus, different software systems that the granting agencies work with,” Naranjo explained. “It opened up my eyes on how much the Tribe does deal with outside entities, from federal government, to state to private funding. I see this as a plus for the Tribe; it’s not giving up our sovereignty, [instead] it provides a lot of funding that benefits the Tribe.” 

Reflecting on her years with the Tribe, from her position with Southern Ute Wildlife to the Finance Department, Downs-Glass said, “I took three years of Ute language with Alden Naranjo, Tom Givon and Dr. Stacey Oberly. That was an incredibly valuable experience for me, and towards the end, I attended class with many tribal members, and I’m blessed to have those friendships. I [also] want people to appreciate how important the staff’s wellbeing and safety is to the Tribe.”

“This has been a great experience,” Downs-Glass reiterated. “[With] the wonderful treatment that I have received from the Tribe, I wanted to do what I could to support the Tribe in terms of the grant portfolio. I wanted to train a tribal member. I also wanted to have someone come in with proper training … with enough knowledge that they are comfortable and ready to hit the ground running.”

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