PUBLISHED: 5:54 PM on Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Bob Martin: Citizen of the Year
JUNEAU - Bob Martin was caught speechless when he was awarded "Citizen of the Year" at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce annual banquet Nov. 1.

"I started realizing I hadn't thanked anyone," he said a few days later. "I should have introduced my wife. Belonging to all these (organizations) means I've spent less time (with her and at home)."

Katie Spielberger photo
  Bob Martin was named the Juneau Chamber of Commerce's 2008 Citizen of the Year during its annual banquet on Nov. 1.
Martin, 66, is the vice president of operations for Goldbelt, Inc. and serves on a dozen boards and committees, including the Sealaska Heritage Institute Board of Trustees and the Denali Commission's Energy Policy Advisory Committee. He has been president of the Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp 70, and vice president of the Chamber of Commerce.

The list goes on, but Martin himself is reluctant to toot his own horn about his service to the community.

When asked about the accomplishments he is most proud of, he first named family milestones: "Watching our kids grow up and become the neat people they are, getting married."

Martin and his wife, Virginia, have two grown daughters, Hilary and Danielle. Danielle works for Temsco and Hilary is a lawyer specializing in environmental and Indian law.

"We did something right," he said about his daughters.

Martin was born in Kake in 1942, in the same house his mother was born in. His father was from Juneau, and Martin went to Juneau for high school. His strongest influences have always been his parents and his grandparents.

He credits his grandfather for giving him his characteristic dry sense of humor.

"We all agree (my brother and I) inherited his sense of humor," Martin said. "You could never tell if he was telling the truth or another tall tale."

His brother, Bill, is 17 months younger and is the president of Tlingit and Haida Central Council. Martin links their involvement in the "tribal aspect" of the Tlingit culture back to his grandparents, who were both officers in the ANB and ANS.

"They had a lot of values and a lot of stature," Martin said. "It's a challenge to be able to live up to."

Of course, if you ask people who know Martin, they'll say his stature is nothing to scoff at, either.

"Bob Martin is just such a neat, unique man," said Cathie Roemmich, CEO of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. "He's soft spoken, he's incredibly humorous on a dry sense and it's amazing when you finally do learn all that he's done. I had no idea that he'd accomplished everything he has."

Martin is a third generation college graduate. After he received a certificate in Electronics Technology from the Haskell Institute in Kansas, he worked for the Federal Aviation Administration in Anchorage and saved money for a four-year degree.

It took an earthquake in 1964 to convince him to bite the bullet and enroll at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"I decided however much money I had, that was enough," Martin said.

After graduating with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Martin served in the U.S. Army as an electrical engineer. During his three years of service, he worked with teams in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

His thirst for travel wasn't so easily quenched. Luckily, his wife and daughters also appreciate the open road. Martin and his wife have taken their children on road trips to all 50 states, Canada and Mexico.

In all his explorations, his favorite place is one he hasn't been to since he was young: Gut Bay on Baranof Island. His grandfather would take him there to get early-run sockeye salmon. He also enjoyed going to Port Alexander, gathering seagull eggs and hunting seals.

And of course, it's hard for a man like Martin - who has been nearly everywhere in Alaska and served on at least two dozen committees and boards in Juneau - to go anywhere without seeing familiar faces.

"(My daughter) points out that everywhere I go, I run into someone I know," Martin said.

Indeed, a few years ago, while walking around the Grand Canyon, Martin ran into a couple he'd gone to high school with.

"It was nice to catch up with them," he said.

Note: The Juneau Chamber of Commerce also awarded Lee Sandor the Lifetime Achievement Award last week. She will be profiled in the Nov. 19 issue of the CCW.