The evolution of Maria Elena Ramirez

Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)
Secretary of State Wayne Williams with staffer Maria Elena Ramirez, who is retiring effective Oct. 31. (SOS photo)

Maria Elena Ramirez was, in her own words, “a welfare mom” who lived in public housing and received food stamps and a variety of other government benefits.

Until one day when she decided it was time to go in a different direction. She applied for a job with the state of Colorado, and interviewed with the Colorado Secretary of State’s office on July 14, 1999.

That was the same day Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, another welfare mom who worked herself out of poverty, died of a heart attack.

Ramirez began working for the Secretary of State on  Aug. 2, 1999.

“I learned I could support me and my kids,” Ramirez said. “I became independent.”

Countless calls — and six secretaries of state later — she is calling it quits. Today is her last day. Ramirez has four children, ages 31 to 24, and five grandchildren, but she’s not stepping down to spend more time with them, at least not right away.

“I turned 50 last year,” she said. “It’s time to do something for me. So I’m heading to the East Coast.”

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