Martinos stepping down in Brooke County

FOLLANSBEE- Two long-time leaders of the Brooke County Democratic Party are stepping down, leaving two seats in the party’s executive committee open.

John Martino said he and his wife, Marge, wanted Brooke County residents to know before the filing period for candidates in this year’s election ends in case someone is interested in filling the the seats.

Prospective candidates have until noon Saturday to file in person at the Brooke County Courthouse. For information, call County Clerk Sylvia Benzo at (304) 737-3661.

John said he has been caring for Marge since she was injured in a fall, and though she is recovering, he decided to focus on her and their family.

“I’m going to give my time to her. She comes first,” he said. He added that he owes much of his success as a local and state leader of the Democratic Party to her support and involvement.

“Without her, I wouldn’t have succeeded. Working together with her was the best thing I ever did,” he said.

The Martinos have served on the Brooke County Democratic executive committee for 26 years, during which John also was chairman. He also has served as district vice president and associate chairman of the state party.

Marge has served as chairman of the party’s 1st Congressional District committee and was a member of the Brooke County Federation of Democratic Women for 34 years, serving as president for three terms.

As the federation’s membership chairman, she helped to more than triple its membership, he said.

Both were named Brooke County Democrat of the Year for their involvement in the party, including organizing local meet the candidate nights.

Over the years the pair have attended national conventions to nominate four Democratic presidential candidates and have worked with numerous federal, state and local officials and candidates.

Martino said among those who made an impression on him were the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, whom he remembers for his unwavering faith in the American political process; former U.S. Rep. Alan Mollohan, whom he said had a sincere desire to serve his state; and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

Martino said he met Rockefeller before a lengthy tenure in state offices that included two terms as governor. He said like many, he questioned why a former New Yorker from a wealthy family was interested in West Virginia politics.

Martino said having come to the state as a participant in the Volunteers in Service to America program, “He told me he fell in love with West Virginia. And I rate him a real West Virginian. He was a true West Virginian because he loved the people.”

Martino said as chairman of the Brooke County Democratic Party he tried to support candidates interested in helping the working class and domestic industries.

He recalled at age 18 pursuing a career in carpentry, much to the chagrin of his father, a stonemason. He went on to serve as business manager of United Brotherhood of Carpenters chapters in Chester, New Cumberland, Weirton and Steubenville for more than 35 years.

He also was state vice chairman of the AFL-CIO.

The Martinos also have been active in other organizations. John is a past grand knight of the Follansbee Knights of Columbus and member of the Theta Chi Alpha social fraternity, and Marge is a past vice president of the 20th Century Club and member of the Altar Rosary Society of St. Anthony Catholic Church, where both are members.

They have two children and three grandchildren.