By Brandon Martin
Chad Martin said he has been walking his walk and talking his talk both before and after his 2016 election to City Council, and he hopes the trail he has blazed so far will be enough to convince voters to extend his path in November.
“If someone were to vote for me, it would be because they would see that I am a servant and I have a history of service,” Martin said. “I see a lot of politicians talk about what they are going to do. If anybody is going to vote for me, you should look at my past and what I’ve already done.”
Martin, 41, said he has been at the forefront of bringing people together for fatherhood events, women’s empowerment talks and focusing on men’s health.
Hunger insecurity is another issue that Martin said he takes seriously considering that “we deal with such a high rate in our area.”
His background as a Hunger Justice Leader for Bread for the World will be useful in his new role on the Commonwealth’s Commission for Food Insecurity as he looks to find solutions for the area.
Martin has also found ways to volunteer.
“I’m probably the only council member that has stayed overnight at the Winter Warming Shelter,” he said. “If people don’t stay there, then we don’t have enough volunteers to keep that place open.”
If re-elected, he said the next term would likely be his last, but he would like to stay on a little longer to oversee some of the city’s projects.
“The seven projects that we have coming now are a lot due to how visionary this council and staff have been,” Martin said. “The projects really speak to the ‘Move to Martinsville’ campaign. Whether it be the housing with the BB&T building, or our aggressive approach to how we want to uplift our uptown and make sure it’s the heartbeat of the city.”
According to Martin, the changes will attract businesses, which will bring jobs which that then attract millennials who “want to see that you have nightlife.
“I really want to see those projects come into fruition and I really want to be part of that reversion conversation,” Martin said.
He added that reversion is needed for several reasons, but education as a major factor.
“If we were able to partner with the county, and allow them to use our schools, but we go as a joint body to go to the General Assembly” to lobby for a combined Local Composite Index (LCI), then it “would be very beneficial to both parties.”
In addition, Martin said that the city and county have duplicate services.
“We could share our HR (human resources) departments,” he continued. “We have more purchasing power when we buy in bulk. Let’s share our court system. We’re already sharing our trustees in our prisons.”
Martin pointed to the relationship between the city police and two sheriff departments as one of the many ways the two localities already work together.
“If they can do that together, then why can’t we do the same thing,” he said. “We’ve already had projects that we are partnering on. Look at the Patriot Centre, the Dick and Willie trail, and social services.”
Given the uncertainty of a reversion, Martin looks to assure African Americans that they won’t lose their voting power.
“That’s not the case at all because Martinsville would still have the same jurisdiction lines,” Martin said. “If the county decided to try to cut it up, then that would go to the General Assembly and they would make sure it wouldn’t happen. Those fears need to be dispelled.”
As potentially one of the people in the discussion, Martin said he has the right qualities.
“You want someone in the room who is calm, cool and collected,” he said. “Someone that understands, and that it is better to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Not listening to respond but listening to try and understand. When you come into a reversion situation, you need to understand the mindset of county residents and what they want to make sure this is a win-win situation for both parties. I think that conversation is going to go a lot better than people assume.”
While he has his own ideas to better the community, Martin said he doesn’t have all of the answers.
“We have done a great disservice to just tell people to get out and vote,” he said. “Hold us accountable. Come to meetings and tell us your ideas. Each of us are only one vote but come and tell us what you’d like to see us do. I’m a constant learner. I’m always trying to learn how to be a better leader.”
Martin said he will need those answers with big questions besides reversion and the coronavirus on the horizon.
“In light of COVID-19, what have we learned? Can people work from home? What is the cost savings that COVID has shown us that we can think through and not just throw away after COVID is gone? What are the policies that we put in place now in case there is a future pandemic,” he said.
According to Martin, leadership also will be needed to address trauma caused to youth during the pandemic, as well as the aging staff faced by the city.
“There’s about seven people now in administration that can retire at any time,” Martin said. “We need a contingency plan of how to move people into those roles.”
Martin said that the city might have trouble finding candidates given the disparity in salaries across the state.
“We’re not broke but, if you look at the market as a whole, we can’t pay for some of these administrative positions in comparison to other places,” he said. “If you are doing a national search and someone looks at that salary, they are looking at Martinsville as a stepping–stone as opposed to a place where they can move and retire.”
That stepping-stone mentality would mean the city could lose valuable insight, he said.
“There is a lot of institutional knowledge here,” he said. “If that is not passed down, we’ve just lost 50-100 years of institutional knowledge that cannot be replaced. We really need that contingency plan of how we are mentoring these people into these positions.”
Martin has two brothers, four nephews and one niece. He works as the census coordinator for the United Way and at History United through the University of Virginia. He graduated from Carlisle School in 1997 and then Shaw University with a bachelor’s degree in Religion & Philosophy. He also studied at Shaw University Divinity School.
Martin is among a field of three incumbent candidates – along with Kathy Lawson and Jim Woods — seeking to retain their posts. Martin also currently serves as vice-mayor.
Others seeking a city office in November are Nelson Edwards and Tammy Pearson.