Marie Peer, right, Moffat County Social Services director, visits with Kristin Grajeda, left, Social Services self-sufficiency technician, and her daughter Myka, on Monday during a celebration recognizing Peer's 40 years at the department. Peer began working at Social Services on Feb. 11, 1969, after graduating from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Photo by Collin Smith

Marie Peer, right, Moffat County Social Services director, visits with Kristin Grajeda, left, Social Services self-sufficiency technician, and her daughter Myka, on Monday during a celebration recognizing Peer's 40 years at the department. Peer began working at Social Services on Feb. 11, 1969, after graduating from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

Social Service director approaching milestone anniversary

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Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray, left, visits with Marie Peer on Monday at Social Services. Wednesday will mark the 40th anniversary of when Peer began working for Social Services.

Sifting through about 40 years of memories Monday, Marie Peer, director of Moffat County Social Services, came back to one in particular that stands out from all the rest.

In the 1970s, a single, struggling mother who didn't earn enough money to support her children working as a part-time bus driver applied for a clerical position with the department.

Peer saw something in the woman - potential.

"She just had a lot of talent," said Peer, who pushed her supervisor to hire the woman.

The woman was hired, Peer said, and worked her way up through the years. She is now a child support supervisor in another county, she added.

"There are so many of them, so many (people) who have worked so hard and done so well over the years," the director said. "It really makes it worth it."

The wide-angle view of her tenure was brought out Monday by a surprise party that county officials, the Moffat County Commission and Social Services co-workers hosted for Peer at the department on Breeze Street.

The celebration was in honor of Peer's upcoming 40th anniversary with the department.

"Marie has certainly been impressive with her long-term commitment to families and children in Moffat County, and her work at Social Services speaks to that," Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said.

County Commissioner Tom Gray, the commission's Social Services liaison, said he's impressed with Peer's perseverance and dedication.

"She still has a passion for the job," Gray said. He added, "She's not burned out, that's for sure."

Peer joined Social Services on Feb. 11, 1969, after graduating from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a sociology degree. She spent the next 10 years as a caseworker.

In 1979, Peer took over as caseworker supervisor. She was named director in 1996.

"No day is ever the same," said Peer, 61, of one aspect of the job that has kept her interested for four decades. "You talk to different people and see different situations."

The other appealing part to her work, she said, is helping people who need it.

"I think it's really rewarding," Peer said. "If you can make a positive impact on people's lives, to me, that's what matters most."

As director, Peer oversees a Social Services department that has about 28 employees, a $4 million budget and serves about 1,500 people a month in Moffat County.

She said the years have produced negatives and positives for Social Services. An increase in the required paperwork takes time away from Social Services' clients, Peer said.

On the flip side, there are "far more" programs and service options for clients than there used to be.

And, although the job sometimes can be overwhelming, and without a good organizational structure it can be chaotic, Peer said she's not ready to call it a career.

"Right now, I'm not too sure," Peer said, of retirement. "I know I'm not ready to retire right now. One of these days I will be."

The litmus test is simple on deciding when the right time will be, she said.

"As long as I can have a positive impact on people's lives, then coming to work every day is something that's an enjoyable thing," Peer said.

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