BIG CYPRESS — After spending the better part of 30 years making sure Seminole seniors had all their needs met, Director of Elder Services Vickey Huff has retired. Now she intends to pay a little more attention to herself, her family and her interests. Her journey began with a retirement party June 22 at the Big Cypress Senior Center.
“She’s done a fantastic job and we kind of hate to see her leave,” said President Mitchell Cypress. “But at the same time, you have to take care of your family.”
One of Huff’s favorite aspects of the job as director was doing the paperwork to assure all the seniors got their trips approved, had plenty of activities to do and fun parties to enjoy.
“I knew I was doing my job well by doing the services for them,” said Huff, whose last day on the job was June 1. “It hasn’t hit yet, I’m just trying to enjoy life. The best part is not having to wake up so early.”
Huff spent more than 35 years working for the Tribe in various roles but when she began working as a secretary with the seniors, she knew she had found her place. Over the years she moved up and six years ago applied for and was promoted to director.
Nadine Bowers, Big Cypress Elder Services site manager, worked with Huff for six years.
“She was a good boss,” Bowers said. “We are going to miss her.”
Hollywood site manager Joe Kippenberger also enjoyed working with Huff.
“She was very professional,” Kippenberger said. “It was a real learning experience.”
“She was lenient and straightforward at the same time,” added Demi Garza, Immokalee Elder Services site manager. “She always stuck up for her team and backed us up.”
Huff believes it takes a certain set of skills to do the job well.
“Someone with a heart, who really cares for and respects the elders, should work with them,” Huff said.
Rhonda Goodman, who has worked with the seniors in various capacities for 15 years, has replaced Huff as the tribal-wide elder services director. Goodman filled in for Huff for a few months when she was out on medical leave.
“It takes a lot of patience, dedication and compassion,” Goodman said about the position. “Sometimes it’s just sitting and listening. Being honest and communicating with the elders and your staff is also important.”
Huff’s future plans include staying home with her husband of 32 years, John Huff, traveling together, relaxing and just enjoying life. She also looks forward to spending plenty of time with her 13 grandchildren.
“I like having her home full-time,” John Huff said. “I just like hanging out with her.”
Huff’s extended family attended the retirement party, which featured an interactive performance by an Elvis impersonator and plenty of gifts and well wishes from seniors and staff. The overwhelming sentiment was repeated by many in attendance; she will be missed.