By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – A large smile surfaces while the pride radiates from the face of Giselle Martinez as she emphatically says the words.
“I’m a product of my community, the City of Newburgh, and I want to now give back to that very community that watched and helped me grow,” said Martinez. “I also want to improve the quality of life for the residents here because I too experienced those very hardships growing up and understand them first-hand.”
A lifelong City of Newburgh resident, Martinez, who is a first generation American, the daughter of working class Mexican immigrants, is quick to cite some of those challenges she experienced and remain an integral piece of her makeup as well as beliefs. Her father worked at construction welding and on farms as well as a dishwasher; while her mother cleaned houses and hotels and was a factory worker. Absorbing their strong work ethic, Martinez also had her “eyes opened to” the unfair realities they faced, such as late shifts and economic injustices.
The spark for her community involvement and passion to make a difference was lit early on. A 2016 Newburgh Free Academy Graduate, Martinez recently graduated from Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) last spring, with a major in Political Science and minor in Legal Studies and Sociology. While at NFA, she volunteered for local organizations, such as food distribution and community cleanup and peer mentoring programs. At MSMC, her involvement took a political slant when she worked on bridging the gap for low income first generation students and higher education using educational panels on financial aid, including options for undocumented youth and mentoring programs. Martinez also fought for racial equality and inclusion through her role as President of the Latino Student Union. Several internships for both federal and state officials, including Jessica Ramos at the State Capitol in Albany as well as local Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson, where she focused on constituent relations, also rounded out her collegiate resume. Although only 24 years of age, she is confident she can handle the challenging responsibilities of the Newburgh City Council Ward 1 position.
“As a younger candidate, I have a lot of energy, and am ready to work very hard,” affirmed Martinez. “I have seen many things here in Newburgh in my own life that needed to be changed, but that change that I know is very possible was not happening fast enough.” She continued, “I feel I can carry out the responsibilities of this position in an effective manner; I have a lot of support and endorsements from many people and organizations, and that although the odds are against me as a young Latino woman, I’m still making it happen.”
Martinez has continued to make things happen since her MSMC graduation. Now working full-time at the New York State Assembly for Jacobson (“working on Newburgh issues behind- the- scenes), she is involved with multiple clubs and committees which have provided her with priceless pearls of campaigning wisdom. A Secretary for the Newburgh City Democratic Committee as well as a member of the Orange County Democratic Committee, Martinez is the Vice Chairperson of the Young Democrats of Orange County. The experience has been a critical part of her political journey.
“I’ve taken on a lot of leadership roles,” pointed out Martinez. “I’m learning a great deal from each of them every day, as it’s an ongoing process that never stops.”
Martinez is also determined to not curtail her unwavering, strong belief in the potential of her City of Newburgh home, a place she is absolutely certain can flourish on multiple levels. More specifically, she is a strong advocate for affordable housing and the promotion of home ownership as well as different housing options for its residents. Her platform further includes fixing the City’s infrastructure, chiefly its roads and sidewalks, ridding it of potholes. Social justice is yet another component, along with cleaner parks and streets and creating a more walk-friendly City. Further, community WIFI- a public broadband-will be a priority, something Martinez deems a necessity, especially since the onset of the Pandemic. Finally, overall transparency between the City of Newburgh residents and City Hall rounds out the top tasks she wants to tackle if elected. She sees a better tomorrow for Newburgh, a vision she desperately seeks to help create.
“I want the City of Newburgh to have greener spaces, and for the residents to reclaim those spaces, whether through owning their own property or generating more revenue (one in three residents is below the poverty line right now), and I want people to have access to more services and resources to improve their lives,” explains Martinez. “Newburgh has that potential, and I truly believe in my City; there are so many great things happening here, and the focus needs to be on the positive and not complaining.” Martinez reflecting further, adds, “That’s why I’m running, to make a real difference.”