Martinez running for state representative
By Trudy Balcom
RAWLINS — A man who has been a fixture in city government in Rawlins since the 1980s is making his first run for a state legislative seat.
De Bari Martinez, 69, officially filed his candidacy last week; he will be running on the Democratic ticket against Rep. Donald Burkhart, the Republican incumbent who has held the District 15 seat for two terms. District 15 encompasses the communities of Rawlins and Sinclair.
Martinez is a lifelong resident of Rawlins who has served numerous terms on the Rawlins City Council as well as a term as mayor, served on the State Board of Parole, the Department of Family Services Board, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities Board and the Carbon County Museum Board.
Martinez retired from a career at Sinclair Refinery 10 years ago; he and his wife Rose have three grown children who live in Colorado.
Martinez said he plans to get out into the community and knock on doors and talk with residents. He admits he does not have answers for every question or solutions to every problem, and that he has plenty to learn about the workings of state government. But he says that he is willing to listen to people and to explore solutions and familiarize himself with issues and government policies.
The issues Martinez has particular concern about include Medicaid expansion, education funding and maintaining the prison facility in Rawlins.
The Daily Times visited with Martinez on Monday about his candidacy, and the issues he feels are important to the community.
Why did you decide to run for a seat in the legislature?
“I took office at 23 years-old in the city council, and I’ve served as mayor and on the council for many years. I like to be involved.
The representation we’ve gotten — the vote is always with the majority. It should represent the area, the district. It should be based on conversations with constituents. I would be very independent and work with people with different ideas. They get down there in Cheyenne, they listen to state organizations, not locals.”
A task force will be meeting this summer to review possibilities for the Wyoming State Prison. What would you like to see for the future of the prison?
I would like to see the town leaders, the city council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Authority, DDA Main Street and the county board come together to strategize. We don’t have any numbers. (If the prison were to leave) we know it’s going to hurt us, but how much? The law says a prison has to be in Rawlins, but it doesn’t say how big the prison must be. Our leaders in this community need to talk about this issue. If I was elected, that’s what I’d be asking for.”
The state legislature approved deep cuts to education funding, with more on the horizon. Those cuts have resulted in the closure on Sinclair Elementary. What can the legislature do to shore up education funding?
“As an average citizen, when you see them find $8 million for University of Wyoming athletics, you wonder. People were very upset with the closing of Sinclair School, and rightly so. I don’t know when they want to call it a rainy day, but in areas of health and education, we should be able to tap into those funds…but not deplete them.”
Would you be in favor of accepting Medicaid expansion?
“Yes. The reason is, Wyoming is rated very high among states receiving federal funding. There’s something wrong when federal funds are okay for some things but not Medicaid. Hospitals need this money, the money belongs to the residents. This is where being open-minded, making decisions based on what your constituents want is important.”
What can you bring to the Legislature that Rep. Don Burkhart does not?
“Mr. Burkhart is a good person. He went to the legislature, he thinks he’s doing what constituents want. But he votes 90 percent with the majority. If you listen to residents, your (votes) are going to bounce all around. I have no issues with him at all, we’re just different.”
What proposals would you bring to the legislature to stabilize Wyoming economy? How can the legislature bring more permanent jobs to Carbon County?
“For years and years, we never diversified. We had the wool industry here in Rawlins, and that disappeared. Then along came coal, and that is disappearing. We have oil and gas. My thinking here in Rawlins is, to figure out a way to bring in more tourism.”