Martinez speaking at Mount Saint Mary College on Oct. 28, Photo via Mount Saint Mary College Newsroom.

By: Emily Gursky

Giselle Martinez, 23, was elected to serve Newburgh’s Ward One territory on Nov. 2, making her the youngest member of city council to date. This victory simultaneously marks the end of an “exhausting” campaign, and the beginning of an exciting political journey for the Mount graduate.

In the eyes of her critics, Martinez was simply too young to be on the ticket. However, “I was thankfully elected for a reason, because people believe that I’m capable, and I know that I am capable.”

Martinez’s interest in public service stems from her childhood here in Newburgh—she was first an advocate for her parents, growing up seeing the struggles and injustices they faced as working class Mexican immigrants.

“I learned at a very quick age how to use my simple English to translate and help out my parents,” said Martinez. “It led me to want to help out other people who perhaps didn’t have anyone that could speak on their behalf.”

At the age of 12, she began volunteering at non-profit organizations where she learned that many kids in Newburgh were in need of things such as food, school supplies and clothes. Then, during her time at MSMC, she mentored lower income first generation students and tried to bridge the gap between the college and the community that surrounds it. When an open seat presented itself within city council, Martinez took these experiences with her and hit the campaign trail.

“Growing up here and knowing these issues like the back of my hand, it just made sense for me to run,” she recalled.

Certain agendas will take precedence as she begins her term, including municipal broadband—essentially community wifi—expanding bus routes, affordable housing as well as repairing roads and sidewalks. Martinez stated that these efforts will require cooperation with both state and county representatives, along with federal funding through grants.

So far, miscommunication has been a big challenge as Martinez advocates for these issues. But, she says this can be improved by making information more accessible. 

She stressed the importance of, “informing the community about what’s really going on and encouraging them to participate by coming to hearings.” Martinez works on this by speaking with Newburgh residents on a day-to-day basis.

Even with her hectic schedule juggling this new position with the responsibilities of graduate school, Martinez doesn’t regret a thing—even if her only real “free time” is dedicated to homework.

“My whole life has been about being an advocate for my community,” Martinez said. “I’m excited, it’s going to be a long four years but we’re going to make the best out of it.”