When Marcia Martinek arrived at the Herald Dem-ocrat in 2002, the newspaper was in a tough spot. The former editor and reporter had quit and the effects of the Climax Mine’s closure still rippled through town.
Seventeen years later, Marcia leaves the Herald Democrat’s editorship in my hands. With her teachings, the newspaper will continue to evolve as a watchdog of local government and custodian of Lake County’s history.
Whether you know Marcia personally or through her editorials, you know she is a staunch believer in the First Amendment and the role of a free press in our democracy. What you might not know is that Marcia has dedicated much of her life to these ideals.
After stints at her high school and college newspapers, Marcia resigned from her student reporter gig at Hillsdale College in protest after the college administration decided that nothing was to be published without the school’s approval.
Marcia further forged her journalistic voice at the Littleton Independent, where she reported on local government, crime and community events for more than a decade. She wrote for the newspaper before and after the birth of her son John, whom she carried to crime scenes, courthouses and city hall alongside her tape recorder.
After stints managing corporate communications for Time Inc., conducting public relations for county governments, and editing weekly newspapers in the Midwest, Marcia came upon a job posting for an editorship at 10,200 feet. She was intrigued.
Marcia was not instantly transfixed by Leadville. She told me she felt the emptiness of Climax’s closure; she disliked the towering slag piles.
But there were times in the early days, like when Curtis Imrie walked his burro inside our Harrison Avenue office, that Leadville felt like home. “I thought you better meet the biggest jackass in town,” Curtis told her.
Autumn arrived and Marcia was diagnosed with cancer. Every day, for months, she drove herself over Battle Mountain for radiation treatment. She beat the cancer and never missed a deadline.
Time came and went and Marcia’s work at the Herald Democrat began to pay off. She reported on Leadville’s Superfund sites, chronicled the rise and fall of law enforcement officers and red-flagged a St. Vincent Hospital CEO hire with the help of vigilant Casper, Wyoming, citizens.
In 2013, Marcia initiated a lawsuit against the Board of County Commissioners. She believed, and still believes, that the BOCC held an illegal executive session to discuss an employee who was selling prescription pills out of his office. With the support of Arkansas Valley Publishing Company owner Merle Baranczyk, the Herald Democrat won the lawsuit in district court. The ruling was later overturned by the state court of appeals.
Throughout it all, Marcia penned 908 editorials, some of which won state and national awards. But more importantly, Marcia’s editorials brought readers to laughter and to tears, compelled our elected officials to become more transparent and inspired Lake County’s residents to become more informed citizens.
Over the last two months, Marcia and I have interviewed candidates from across the nation for the Herald Democrat’s reporter position. When young hopefuls ask what Leadville is like, she points to its people. Leadvillians don’t flaunt knowledge or wealth, she says. They are authentic; they care.
Thank you, Marcia, for caring for 17 years. We look forward to working beside you, calling upon your wealth of knowledge and reading your columns as editor emerita for years to come.