It has taken far too long for Cathi Martin to reach this conclusion, but the three-term member of the Pasco School Board finally has figured out she must leave her public position. "I think it's time for me to go now. I think a fresh face needs to be sitting in this seat for District 3,'' Martin told fellow board members Tuesday evening in announcing she will not seek re-election.
It is the right decision and allows Martin to focus her final months in office on education, rather than on a humiliating campaign trying to account for her dereliction of duties.
Martin's chronic absenteeism, which she attributed to a dozen injuries, surgeries and other ailments triggered by improperly administered medications, dominated in her final term in office. It overshadowed any contributions she may have made in guiding the schooling of 67,000 children and management of nearly 9,500 employees.
The public had to swallow a previous flip-flop from Martin last year, but we trust she is sincere and committed to this announcement to leave office when her term expires after the November election. Clearly it is time. Or, more accurately, it is past time. Yet, Martin had given acquaintances the impression she intended to seek re-election. Just 10 days ago, superintendent Heather Fiorentino told the Times she expected Martin to run again.
Such a campaign would have been uphill and bruising politically considering Martin's poor attendance record, public disengagement and her announced resignation in March 2009. It came after she blamed a flat tire, high blood pressure and a fall at her house for missing a scheduled meeting, workshop and formal hearing of a teacher appealing his termination. Martin, a Democrat, rescinded the resignation a month later to prevent Gov. Charlie Crist from appointing a Republican to finish the term. Allowing political considerations to supersede the best interests of the public — consistent representation from an elected office-holder — did little to rebuild public faith in her ability to do the job.
Sadly, the behavior did not change entirely. Less than two months after promising to fulfill her duties, Martin missed a high school commencement and then a conference in Tampa, at which time the school district asked her to reimburse the $195 registration fee. She again blamed her health, saying she had bronchitis and broke out in hives after having an allergic reaction to prescribed medication.
Martin's absences first came to light in her 2006 re-election campaign when records showed she missed six of 10 meetings of a committee guiding a rewrite of Pasco's long-range land use plan. After voters returned her to office, missed School Board meetings became her routine with excuses ranging the gamut of documented health issues, family matters, the suicide of an acquaintance and her dog dying. On four occasions she pledged publicly to renew her commitment to the electorate only to miss more School Board obligations.
A strong signal of her weak public standing came from her co-workers in November. The School Board picked its newest member, Joanne Hurley, as vice chairman, passing over Martin who was next in line to fill the spot under the nonpartisan board's tradition of rotating the gavel.
If the people who work closest with Martin have no faith in her leadership ability — even in a largely ceremonial role — why should the voters?