Michelle Higley gave up one of her many hats when she retired as editor of the News-Examiner earlier this month.
Since her days growing up in Nounan, Idaho, Michelle has worn numerous hats, some of them simultaneously.
“I never have done things traditionally. My mother would agree with me,” Michelle laughed.
She and her husband, David, were married while Michelle was still in high school. They are the parents of three sons. Through the years, they also cared for 32 foster teenage boys. She said one of those boys never really left and is still very much a part of their family.
“There’s a big difference between social workers who care and those who just do it for a job,” Michelle said.
Because she was one of those who really cares about people, Michelle worked hard to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in social work from Idaho State University in Pocatello. After graduation, she worked for two years as a part-time social worker in Bear Lake County and Soda Springs.
Then in 1996, she was hired by the State of Idaho to be a social worker in Bear Lake, Caribou, Oneida, and Franklin counties. Occasionally, she also investigated cases in Bannock and Power counties. She said that some weeks she traveled 700 to 1,000 miles working on cases. And she traveled to Boise once a month for meetings.
While she was attending college, Michelle had a desire to become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) because her parents were both EMTs.
Someone told her she couldn’t possibly fulfill the required 24 hours of call time to be an EMT while going to college full-time. That made her mad, and to prove that she could do it, she put in 30 hours of call time each week. She received her EMT certification in April 1986, and her first run was to Cokeville on May 16, 1986, when former town marshal David Young and his wife, Doris, took 154 children and adults hostage in the Cokeville Elementary School and threatened them with a bomb. Doris Young detonated the bomb accidentally, and although there were seventy-nine injured, the only two deaths were the perpetrators.
Michelle explained that being an EMT can really get one’s adrenaline going. She retired from making ambulance runs a year ago, in April of 2021. She also taught Emergency Medical Services classes all over Southeastern Idaho during her time as an EMT.
Michelle retired as a social worker in 2014 and began working part-time at The News-Examiner reviewing the legal notices printed in the paper. In 2016, she accepted the position of editor.
She said that she has always loved making quilts and laying out the pages of a newspaper is kind of like piecing a quilt together, but uses words and pictures instead of fabric. She likes using computers and, as a social worker, had done desk-top publishing creating memory books for children when they were adopted.
“I feel a newspaper is so important to a community,” Michelle said. She loved interacting with the people in the public.
She added, “I was so excited that I was the editor that got to break the story about the temple (for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in Montpelier.”
As to what hats Michelle will now be wearing, she is the Chamber of Commerce President for Bear Lake County and Montpelier City. She is also the secretary of the Montpelier Community Foundation Downtown Redevelopment Project and Heritage Park.
She is the primary caregiver for her mother, Karen Skinner. And she is a grandmother of 17 and a great-grandmother of five, soon to be six.
“I can’t sit around and be bored,” Michelle said. “I have at least 15 quilts in process and 20 more in my head.”
Michelle’s editor hat has now been passed to Charlie Wagner and the future of the News-Examiner will be in his hands.