Charles Martin: Pet peeves of a public official

After 17 years as an Albemarle County elected official, Charles Martin can tell you the best way to influence a member of the Board of Supervisors: Don't sound like a crackpot.

Okay, he puts it more subtly. "People who have the most influence are those able to see both sides of an issue." Someone who calls and says her child will be scarred for life if he's redistricted is "making monsters and has no credibility."

Another constituent faux pas: "Having someone say because you didn't agree with them, then you didn't listen to them."

And the absolute worst way to approach a supervisor like Martin is to announce you just moved here and you can tell him how to run the county. Says Martin, "I spent 17 years trying to improve the county they liked enough to move here, and then to have them say they know better than me" on an issue is not going to win points.

Martin is ready to take a break from public office after three terms representing the Rivanna district on the BOS and five years on the school board. He has a son leaving for college, and he worries about the void that's going to create for his remaining two teens. And as a juvenile probation officer, "I'm probably more aware of what kids might be up to and the role parents should play," he says.

Still, he doesn't rule out another run for elected office in the future, even after losing in self-described "convincing defeat" as a Democrat to Republican Rob Bell for the 58th District's House of Delegate's seat in 2001. "The biggest heartbreak to me," Martin admits, "was losing my own precinct,"

Besides humility, he's got politics in his blood. Having majored in government and sociology at UVA, Martin says his job fills in the sociology side, and politics fills in his interest in government. He grew up in Patrick County, where his mother was active in politics, and he's friends with former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, "who should be governor," Martin can't resist adding.

As for his legacy as an Albemarle County supervisor, Martin has tried to balance his votes between growth and anti-growth factions, while always being an advocate for the middle class here. He's noticed that most of the people he started working with have had to move out of the county as it becomes less affordable. "It's a struggle," he says.

And he offers one other nugget of experience, both for constituents and whoever succeeds him on the board: If you live on a dirt road and want to get it paved and are not on the waiting list now, it'll probably be 20 to 25 years before you see the pavers.

Age: 48

What brought you here? I graduated from UVA in 1978 with a B.A. in government and sociology.

What's worst about living here? The Charlottesville area has few middle-class black neighborhoods, which were plentiful where I grew up.

Favorite hangout? Home

Most overrated virtue? They all have their moments.

What would people be surprised to know about you? I love to sing and dance (including flat-footing).

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? By the time I knew the definition of fat, I was already there.

What accomplishment are you proudest of? Please don't say your family. Excuse me, but my family is my proudest accomplishment. When all is said and done and you are on your dying bed, I think your family will decide whether you die happy or sad.

What do people find most annoying about you? You will have to ask them. They do not tell me.

Whom do you admire? Martin Luther King, James Butler, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, Tim Duncan, and my father and mother.

Favorite book? Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End

What subject causes you to rant? Growth vs. no growth in Albemarle; affirmative action and government trying to completely control our lives

What thrills you about life in the 21st century? It's changing so rapidly and makes it hard to stay on top of it.

What creeps you out about life in the 21st century? The many people who seem to not care and show respect for life.

What do you drive? a traditional Jeep.

What's in your car tape player right now? Nothing

What's your next journey? I desire very much to spend more time with my family and grow my small business.

What's the most trouble you've ever gotten in? No comment

What do you regret? I regret not having gone straight into law school after graduation from college. I was going to "wait a year," but it has been 25 years.

Favorite comfort food? I'll eat anything. Food's not that important to me. I was a country boy, and my parents insisted I eat whatever was put on my plate.

What's always in your refrigerator? Onions, hot sauce, and diet sodas

Must-see TV? I do not watch much on TV.

Describe a perfect day. A perfect day is one in which I sleep in until 9am and never leave the house, but spend all day working outside and then have good friends over for dinner and good conversation.

Walter Mitty fantasy? I'm traveling all over the world.

Who'd play you in the movie? I know very little about movies or their stars.

Most embarrassing moment? Losing the House of Delegates race

Best advice you ever got? Never say or consider what you cannot do.

Favorite bumper sticker? Only small people concern themselves with small problems.