Story by Emmy Steele
As a prominent personality in the Department of Occupational Therapy for quite some time, Deb Spotts’ contagious laugh and cheerful presence is going to be hard to replace as she heads into retirement. Spotts’ career at the Center for Community Partnerships has been nothing short of amazing and her impact will be long-lasting, not just for those she directly serves, but also to the greater Colorado State University community and city of Fort Collins.
A true Fort Collins native
Spotts grew up as an Air Force brat and when her dad retired, she and her family moved in 1966 to Fort Collins, Colorado; 54 years later Spotts still finds herself living here today! Spotts graduated from Fort Collins High School and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science in housing and design from Colorado State University in 1976. Spotts said that we might as well call her a “towney” as she is a true Fort Collins native, in and out. In her free time, you can catch her enjoying the mountains, fly fishing, skiing, gardening and reading. Also she shared, “She loves to just be alive in our beautiful state.”
Becoming involved in the Center for Community Partnerships
Spotts first became involved in the CCP through a good friend of hers who at the time, was an occupational therapist at the CCP. Her friend approached her and asked if she would be interested in working with individuals with disabilities and assisting them in locating jobs.
During her initial interview Spotts asked, “So let’s get this straight. You want me to work with people with disabilities and local employers to find these individuals a job?” When the interviewers replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Spotts said, “Okay, I will give this a shot.” From the start, the interviewers knew that she was one of a kind and would be an incredible asset to the CCP.
James Graham, CCP director, confirmed that her positive outlook and enthusiasm for helping people hasn’t changed. He added, “I like to surround myself with people who have ‘can-do’ attitudes. She doesn’t have a ‘can-do’ attitude… she has a ‘just-did-and-it was-no-big-deal’ attitude!”
Finding purpose through employment
Julia Kothe, CCP associate director, said, “She is a force of positivity who has changed the employment climate for hundreds of people in Northern Colorado through her advocacy and belief in the inherent dignity of all people.” During her 18 years at the CCP Spotts has focused on providing individualized services in job development and placement for individuals with disabilities, as well as helping out with supported education, community engagement and other CCP programming. In addition, Spotts had a role in working with student veterans who, after active duty, are returning to the workforce; Spotts’ goal was to assist these individuals in achieving both school and employment success.
One of her favorite parts of her job has been meeting so many motivated people who are just wanting to find their purpose through employment. Spotts commented, “I love helping people find a job in a field that they truly want to work in and this is one of the most rewarding parts of my job.” She also shared that because of her role as an active member in Fort Collins, her involvement in community organizations has been such an asset in connecting people to employment in our local area.
Icing on the cake
When asked about her biggest key to success, Spotts commented that surrounding herself with brilliant staff members has been influential on her career and her success. She shared, “I will be forever grateful to them for teaching me so much and standing by me through all the challenges that were presented. The Department of Occupational Therapy and the CCP have always supported me and have been there with me through many of life’s curve balls. I would not know how to express my gratitude to all of them.”
In addition, Spotts shared that her biggest accomplishment during her career was receiving the Spirit Award during the 2013 Mayor’s Awards. At this event, she was recognized by the City of Fort Collins Commission on Disability honoring her work in serving individuals with disabilities. “This really was the icing on the cake and was such a great honor,” shared Spotts.
According to her coworkers at the CCP, she is widely known for her catch phrases or “Debisms,” which will have a lasting impact on people who have not only interacted with her, but also shared an office space with her. To name just a few:
- Ain’t nobody got time for that
- This ain’t my first rodeo
- Bless her little heart
Looking forward to new adventures
In her retirement Spotts is looking forward to traveling, hiking new trails, volunteering and spending time working at a local garden center. Spotts and her husband, with whom she has been married to for 45 years, are excited to spend more time with their two successful daughters. She shared that she will continue to be engaged in the Fort Collins community and give back, striving to be kind to everyone who crosses her path.
Although she will miss her colleagues, the students and the incredible feeling that she gets when helping people find their path, Spotts said, “Don’t worry, if you are looking for a new job, I am always just a phone call away.”