When Mary Martin was first offered the position of Teton County home economist in 1975, she arrived with all her possessions in a car, apprehensive about the two years she’d have to spend away from North Dakota, her home state.
Almost half a century later, the Wyoming Business Report honored Martin with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the Teton County community. Her achievements over the past 48 years are truly unique and more than qualify her as a Wyoming Business Report Woman of Influence.
“Sometimes people wonder, how have you stayed in the same job for so long? But it hasn’t been the same job! I’m not doing the same work that I did, even last year,” Martin says.
Martin’s first class as a county extension home economist focused on teaching people how to use microwaves. Since then, her work has spanned a huge breadth of topics. She has been involved in 4-H scholarships, emergency management, community daycares, senior meal plans, change management workshops, low-income assistance, and mediation. She even helped recent immigrants get a basketball team started. Today, as a UW Extension community vitality and health educator, Martin is developing an online financial literacy course.
Many of Martin’s projects have taken on a life of their own over the years, enriching her community beyond her direct efforts. “I have found working with the communities of people in Wyoming to be a great source of joy,” she comments. “In extension, we use the community’s talents and resources to create community solutions to community problems.”
One of Martin’s personal highlights is her work with the Jackson Fall Arts Festival. In the 1980s, she participated in community discussions focused on ways to bring more visitors and jobs to Jackson in the fall. She came up with Quilting in the Tetons, an annual event where quilters got together to attend workshops, practice their craft, and showcase their work. The event brought together a community of quilters for a quarter of a century, bolstered the area’s economy, and empowered hundreds of participants.
“I was really honored to be nominated for the Lifetime Achievement Award,” says Martin. “I’ve been able to do an amazing amount of different kinds of things because of the resources of UW Extension, and the fact that I live in a community that wants to make itself a wonderful place to live and use those resources.”
The fulfillment she’s found in her work extends well beyond Teton County. “Mary Martin represents the very best of UW Extension,” says Mandy Marney, senior associate director of UW Extension. “Throughout her tenure with our organization, she has created positive impacts not only within the counties in which she has worked, but across the state.”