When Chris Martinez, currently 65, retired from the Federal Reserve after 35 years of service, he thought it would afford more time to do the many things he treasures. Truly a renaissance man, Chris is equally adept and comfortable spending his time cooking and baking, decorating, and entertaining his family—wife, Terry, two adult children, five grandchildren, his mother, and many extended family members—as he is bowling with his league and tailgating and attending Broncos games.
Life, as it so often does, had something different in store for Chris. He was approached and asked to come work for the City and County of Denver’s Office of Economic Development. Chris accepted the offer and began working with the Mayor and other officials in 2010 on programs to ensure equitable development in communities across the city.
Chris Martinez – a lifetime of service
A decades-long resident of Montbello, Chris gained a great deal of his experience in the realm of community development from co-founding and leading neighborhood organizations: Far Northeast Neighbors, Montbello 2020, and more recently, Montbello Organizing Committee, not to mention service on countless other nonprofit boards and committees, including as an elected board member for RTD.
“I have the luxury of being involved with so many volunteer opportunities,” Chris says. “YMCA, Democratic Party, Growing Colorado Kids (refugee families), Latino organizations, schools, church, and lots of community civic based organizations, each having a unique impact on the community served. Working with schools provides me a strong sense of fulfillment because you can see the impact your work is having on students.”
A consensus-builder and strategic thinker, Chris was at the center of planning Montbello’s 25th-anniversary celebration, as well as its 50th. He’s also helped usher positive change each of the years in between. As a co-founder and current chair of Montbello Organizing Committee, he has helped the organization grow from a small grass-roots, entirely volunteer-run group to an organization with staff, dozens of community and funding partners, a near $2 million operating budget, and a resident-led plan, in-progress, to develop a grocery-store anchored cultural hub with 96 units of affordable housing.
Experience brings unique perspective
Chris’s contemplations of retirement were forestalled again in 2017 when he accepted his current position, Executive Director of Hispanic Contractors of Colorado (HCC), making it only his third job over the span of a 42-year career. Possessing a core, driving value of equity, Chris loves helping small, diverse contractors learn how to do business with public entities and large corporations through HCC.
While the current pandemic has stifled Chris’s ability to go out with Terry and listen to jazz or cut a rug, he is content and happy because the things that are most important remain. “Currently, we are blessed to have four generations in the family,” Chris says. “Seeing all family members every week reminds me that we can continue to learn from each member, no matter how young or how old. We also need to recognize that everyone contributes to the family in one way or another—it might be financially, through wisdom, or by just bringing a smile to each other’s faces. Each is valued.”
Chris rarely sits still for long and doesn’t imagine ever completely slowing down. “I say you are never too old to contribute. Sometimes it is the wisdom you bring or a new perspective to the table that makes the project even better. Don’t sit by saying ‘I wish I would have gotten involved.’ Get up, and do it! Others will respect you for it—your wisdom, brought on by experience, is invaluable.”
Angelle C. Fouther
Read more about older people making a difference.