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Candidate Profile: Longtime Politician Looks To New Leadership Role

Hailey mayoral candidate Martha Burke has been serving the community since 1974

By Eric Valentine

Hailey City Councilmember and mayoral candidate Martha Burke. Photo credit: Martha Burke

There’s no “i” in team, but in Hailey political circles there’s usually a Martha Burke—a 44-year Hailey resident and a 30-year veteran of local politics who declared her candidacy for mayor at last month’s city council session. The decision came within a month of current mayor Fritz Haemmerle’s announcement he would not be seeking re-election and seven-plus months prior to the Nov. 5 election.

“Fritz has done a remarkable job. We have an unbelievable staff. And everyone is working as a team,” Burke said. “We’re in an amazing situation and I feel the time for me to lead is now.”

Burke has been serving on the Hailey City Council for 26 years, which she preceded with time on the Hailey Planning and Zoning Commision, the Hailey Library Board and the Blaine County Hospital Auxiliary. Her volunteerism has spanned her two daughters’ schools, the P.E.O. Sisterhood (an international women’s group), Meals on Wheels, and as a vestry with Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Hailey.

Why Now?

Burke said that her identifying as a team player and her worry over the things one can’t control—such as natural disaster—made her shy away from the city’s top spot all these years. After some recent introspection though, Burke said she realizes everyone could have those feelings but someone still has to lead.

“I’ve always been a team player, but now is the right time in my life to lead the team,” Burke said.

The Platform

Burke identified three key issues she will prioritize should she be elected mayor: 1) affordable housing, 2) floods, and 3) environmental sustainability.

Housing. Burke recognizes the problem affordability is for working folks. She said River Street may offer some options, but hasn’t come forward with any specifics this early in the race.

“I get it. I’m retired and on a fixed income,” Burke said. “I understand and appreciate what younger, working people are feeling.”

Floods. With each large-snowfall winter, flood concerns for residents and business owners spikes. Calling on the federal government to help with flood prevention and flood impacts costs is a must, Burke said.

Environment. Inspired by the activism of youth speaking up about their climate change concerns and a book by Paul Hawken called “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” Burke said she is committed to the idea of installing a so-called sustainability group—a permanent advisory board to the city that would consult on matters of environmental impact per project proposal.

Burke said the city likely cannot afford a full-time staffer to head up the group, but there are funding options out there—through Americorps, for example— that could make the effort affordable.

The Candidates

Currently, no other mayoral candidate has emerged for Hailey, and some mayors in the past have run unopposed. Burke said she expects that with Election Day still seven months away, someone will declare. If she has opposition, she hopes it is someone with a basic understanding of how city government works and some basic experience on a local board of some kind.

“I encourage the 30- and 40-year-olds out there to get involved in community politics in some way, but I understand; they work full time, they have kids,” Burke said.

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