Retiring Bucks County Commissioner Charles H. Martin was honored last Wednesday at the annual Middletown Grange Fair for his many years of support for farm preservation, agricultural and 4-H programs, and the Grange Fair itself.
Martin is stepping down in January. While he is not seeking another four-year term as commissioner, he is running for a seat on the Centennial School Board.
Last week marked his final official commissioners’ meeting at the Grange Fair, a five-day event for which he has a special fondness.
Members of Bucks County 4-H and the Penn State Extension, who normally perform the ceremonial flag-raising that kicks off the fair, surprised Martin by calling on him to hoist the American, Pennsylvania and 4-H flags this year. A group of young 4-H’ers then raised a cheer, shouting in unison, “We love you, Charley Martin.”
At the subsequent commissioners’ meeting, several speakers paid homage to Martin’s support for farmland preservation and agricultural endeavors since taking office in 1995. During that time, more than 200 farms and 16,000 acres of prime Bucks County farmland have been preserved.
Since the Agricultural Land Preservation Program was adopted in 1989, a total of 224 farms and 17,711 acres have been preserved. The county hopes to reach 18,000 acres of preserved farmland by the end of 2019.
Lynn Bush, the county’s former chief clerk and executive director of the planning commission, recalled that one of Martin’s first acts as a commissioner was to help form an open space task force.
“He reads everything and he forgets nothing,” Bush said.
She credited much of the county’s open-space preservation success to Martin’s careful scrutiny, tough questioning, fiscal discipline, institutional memory and vast knowledge of the county’s unique character.
“Would there have been an open space program without Charley Martin? Maybe,” Bush said. “But would there have been a successful, cost-effective program that reflected the unique culture of Bucks County, the unique countryside of Bucks County, without Charley Martin’s commitment to the cause, his guidance and his watchful eye? Not a chance.”
“Can I get a copy of that for my obituary when the time comes?” Martin joked in response.
David DelBianco, a board member of the Bucks County Penn State Extension, noted that the Extension “has been around for 56 years. The Grange has been around for 71. Commissioner Martin has been in that environment for 25.
“You are a champion of all things green and growing, Commissioner Martin,” DelBianco said. “Congratulations on your long tenure and your retirement. The agricultural community will miss you and the mark you have left on Bucks County.” ••