RIO GRANDE COUNTY — During an employee appreciation lunch on Nov. 4, Rio Grande County staff and Rio Grande County Commissioners celebrated 55 years of service by Helen Martinez who began her work in the Rio Grande Social Service Department in 1966.
Co-workers, fellow employees, and county officials all took a moment to thank Martinez and presented her with a plaque to show their gratitude and mark the occasion.
“I started at the front desk as a clerk-typist and worked my way up from there. I was fortunate to be in a company that allowed and helped me grow through the years. I think most people these days work 55 years, they just don’t do it in the same place. I spent five years in the front before I moved on to food assistance,” said Martinez.
During her years with Rio Grande County, Martinez worked with seven different directors, was one of a two-person staff that spent countless hours moving handwritten ledgers, documents, financial statements and more from manual to automated systems.
“When looking back I can absolutely say that the transition of going from manual to automated systems was my most challenging moment. There were only two of us at the time and we had to be sure everything was entered correctly, piece by piece,” Martinez said, laughing as she reminisced about the long-ago memory.
At one point in her career, while working for the eligibility department, Martinez had a family tragedy that the county helped her work through.
“I had to be home to take care of my children and the director at the time made up a new position for me that allowed me to still work for the county in my department and be at home. I have worked with some amazing people over the years, and it is because of them that I made it this far,” she said.
Martinez is now the supervisor for the child support unit and works with two 20-year employees that she says keeps her young and makes coming to work fun.
“I figure the day I wake up and decide that work is no longer fun will be the day I decide to head to Arizona to be closer to my children. Until that day comes though, I plan on staying as long as I can,” she said.
While she is grateful for the opportunity to have the position she does, Martinez made it clear that it was the people who helped her through the last 55 years and will continue to help her until the day she retires.
“I had the wonderful opportunity to grow in the county and work with some amazing people. This is my work family. They keep me young and keep me going. I will know when the day comes that I’m ready to retire but until then, I will be here with my second family,” she said.