Waitress, single mom who went back to college now directs Workforce Center
Sue Tuffin was a single mother working as a waitress for 90 cents an hour when she decided she needed more.
She had worked in a finance office while putting her then-husband through college and earned a certificate as a teenager from a business school in Denver. She decided to go back to school and earn a four-year degree, something she accomplished in a little more than two years at Southern Colorado State College, which became Colorado State University at Pueblo. She worked four jobs and continued raising her son during that time.
“It wasn’t easy being a single mother going to college. I just tell women, ‘Feel sorry for yourself for a day, and then kick your butt and get it done.’ With women in particular, no one does it for you,” Tuffin said.
Tuffin worked post-college at the front desk, then as a counselor and supervisor at Manpower, an employment-services company in Pueblo. After that, she got a job in social work in her hometown at the Delta Department of Social Services. She became director of the Delta Health Department. When the Health Department combined with the Human Services Department, she directed them both.
From 1988 to 1998, Tuffin worked for the state, reforming welfare in Denver. She was tapped to direct the Mesa County Workforce Center, which has employment and training programs, job services and child-care resources under its umbrella.
It was a job Tuffin said she “fell into” rather than pursued, although she always had an interest in helping others push through hard times.
“I never went to school with the intention of being director of anything,” Tuffin said. “My parents taught me if you’re presented with a challenge, fall into it and get it done.”
Women broke many workforce barriers in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Tuffin said. She hopes today’s generation of young workers will bring back the conversation, but she’s at least happy to see women nearing 50 percent of the work force.
“If every woman walked out of their jobs today, we’d be in a world of hurt,” she said.