Longtime Bucks Commissioner Charlie Martin reflects on 24-year tenure ahead of retirement

The Southampton resident and William Tennent alum now has plans to run for school board director of Centennial School District

Decades of dedication: After six terms and 24 years, Southampton’s Charlie Martin is retiring from the Bucks County Commissioners. He’ll officially vacate his seat as vice chairman in January 2020. Source: Charles Martin

When Southampton’s Charlie Martin received an attractive retirement package from his 30-year employer PECO Energy in 1995, he knew he’d be foolish not to accept it. But being only 52, he also knew he needed to find something else to fill his time. He just didn’t know what that “something else” was.

Though he considered teaching social studies since he had an education degree from Lebanon Valley College, the answer came when two Bucks County Commissioners at the time – Mark Schweiker, who was elected lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, and Andy Warren, who took a job as director of PennDOT – decided not to run for reelection. After enjoying four terms as chairman of the Upper Southampton Township board of supervisors, Martin realized the position would be a perfect fit, and he threw his hat in the ring.

That year, Martin (Republican) was elected Bucks County Commissioner, with Mike Fitzpatrick earning the second open spot. Now, after six terms and 24 unforgettable years, Martin is retiring from the board of commissioners. He’ll officially vacate his seat as vice chairman in January 2020, opening the way for the next generation of leadership.

“I have mixed emotions about it. I certainly enjoyed it over the years, but there’s a time to leave, and this seemed to be the right time to leave,” Martin told The Times. “On the one hand, I don’t miss the campaigning part of it because I see all the things that people are doing that I’m not doing now. On the other hand, the job is very interesting. I’ve enjoyed it and we’ve been able to do quite a bit in the county over that time.”

For Martin, a highlight of his tenure was the present board’s aggressive approach to the preservation of open space in Bucks County, which began in 1997.

“The open space initiatives that we did preserved thousands of acres of land in the county that protects the quality of life for Bucks County as we know it,” Martin said. “Back then, development was rampant in the county, and that was the No. 1 issue in the late ’90s – controlling development. So the open space initiative was in response to that, and twice the voters overwhelmingly approved it in 1997 and 2007. It’s been a wonderful program.”

Proud moments also include improvements made to the emergency management system, including the enhancement of the 9-1-1 system, the construction of a new state-of-the-art emergency operations center, and taking a leadership role in the five-county anti-terrorism task force.

Additionally, Martin remains in awe over the exponential growth of Bucks County he has witnessed while on the board, and said he hopes his successor continues to make that a priority.

“In the mid- to late-’90s, it was actually growing too fast. It’s been somewhat more controlled,” he said. “We still need to improve and try to encourage business growth in the county. Businesses that provide good-paying jobs for people are important to have. Those kinds of things are still at the top of the list of things to accomplish as well for whoever is going to be commissioner.”

With his days in office quickly coming to an end, Martin is once again brainstorming what he plans to accomplish during retirement. At the top of his agenda is a run for school board director of Centennial School District. As a William Tennent High School alum, Martin said he’d be honored to lend his expertise to his alma mater.

“I might be able to bring something to the school district as far as budgeting and fiscal things,” he said, explaining how running a school and county are vastly different, but many of the same principles apply.

When he’s not campaigning, Martin is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Jean and English bulldog Lily Rose at their Jersey Shore house. He also has ambitions to volunteer at Neshaminy Manor nursing home in Warrington, or the SPCA.

“Although I’d have to think about that because I’d want to bring all the dogs home,” he said with a laugh. “Hopefully, God willing, my health stays good and I’ll be able to do some of those things.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com