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  • Writer's pictureMartin Chalk

Southern Tier Civics Voices

County legislator entered politics at 70 to improve community for future generations


At age 70, when most people are relaxing in their retirement homes, or just enjoying retirement in general, I decided to pursue a career in politics. So in the election of 2015, I ran for a seat in Chemung County's 10th District. A friend of mine, Ted Bennett, had held that seat for 44 years. When he decided to retire, he approached me about running. Even though we are not members of the same political party, we did share the same values and philosophies.


I made the decision to run for office for a number of reasons. Other than my time spent in the military, I have lived in Chemung County, and the City of Elmira, my entire life. I raised my family here. This has always been a special place for me.


Like many communities around our country, Elmira has struggled with many challenges. We were once blessed with a number of very successful companies, many of which closed, moved away, or just simply downsized. A thriving downtown was wiped out by a hurricane in 1972, and never really recovered. 


Memories are wonderful, but they do not help with the reality of trying to rebuild what you once had. I have three grandchildren who have grown up in Elmira. I want to give them more than memories and stories about how great things used to be. I have been very involved in my community for a long time, serving on many boards, and as President of the Elmira Water Board. Adding the title of County Legislator over the past 9 years has allowed me to become very involved in decisions impacting the future of my community. It has also energized me. I get up at 6:00 in the morning and start a full day. At the end of the day, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. Elmira is coming back, and I feel a great sense of pride that I have played a part in that resurgence. 


I feel a strong sense of responsibility to learn as much as I can about County Government and politics, in general. I was presented with a proclamation from Cornell University for course work that I completed through the New York State Association of Counties. I am thankful that I have been blessed with the health to continue with my political career and to continue to serve my community, and to continue to learn.


Martin Chalk, District 10, City of Elmira


About this feature

Southern Tier's Civics Voices is a Southern Tier Life feature that invites local legislators, and those running for office, to share why they're compelled to get involved, and how they are working to make the southern tier region of New York State an inviting place to live, work, visit and enjoy.

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