It’s never too late to start something new. Former Roanoke City Postmaster and current Botetourt County Supervisor Billy Martin personifies that reality. Martin was 47 when he took up oil painting, and he was 64 when he decided to become a politician. He won the election in 2007 and took office in 2008 after defeating two opponents in a three-way race for the seat vacated by 20-year veteran supervisor Wendy Wingo.
These days the Republican representative is battling a water rate increase in the Blue Ridge District. His public forums and comments at supervisors meetings about Aqua Virginia’s proposed 69 percent rate increase have been well received by voters.
The company has over 2,200 customers in the Blue Ridge and Cloverdale areas of Botetourt County. The proposed increase, which is before the State Corporation Commission, would cover $44 million worth of improvements to Aqua Virginia’s water and sewer systems statewide.
“The rate increase on Botetourt citizens is subsidizing improvements for other parts of the state,” Martin said at a recent supervisors meeting. The company does not have sewer or storm water run-off systems in Botetourt.
“My big question is why do they need a 69 percent increase when they made $98 million last year? I know their shareholders want to make as much money as they can, but they don’t use their profits for capital improvements and to me that’s not right,” he said.
Martin came to politics after the supervisors instituted a telephone tax about six years ago that he thought was unwarranted. The tax issue caused him to take a more active role in the county’s Republican Party.
Despite his party affiliation, he strongly believes he represents everyone. “Once you’re in office, you represent all the people,” he said. “If anyone in Blue Ridge has an issue, we need to sit down and address it regardless of who you are. I’ve enjoyed working with people while being a supervisor and I’ve enjoyed helping people get their problems resolved. That’s one of the reasons I ran.”
Martin was raised in Southeast Roanoke but moved to Blue Ridge with his wife, Becky, 30 years ago, because it was her home.
He believes his work at the Roanoke post office, where he managed a budget of $12 million, has benefited him as he has worked to make the Blue Ridge District supervisor’s seat his own. During his government employment he was a union member and worked in management.
As a trained mediator, he sees both sides of an issue. “I’ve been in a lot of leadership positions,” he said.
He worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 32 years, retiring in 2001. Now he is active politically, busy in his church, and is an attentive grandfather who dotes on his two grandchildren.
Martin is also an artist; his oil paintings are top-notch, exceptional work, coveted by many of the area’s art patrons. One painting in particular, a portrait of Mill Mountain Zoo’s Ruby the tiger, has garnered him a modest amount of fame.
He only has a few of his paintings in his home; most are completed and sold on commission. He is currently working on three projects, two for relatives and another for a client. His fight against the water rate increase has forced his artwork to the back of his to-do list lately.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here on this earth,” Martin said as he eyed an oil painting of an eagle and New York’s Twin Towers that he hopes to give to President Bush. “I’ve enjoyed most of the things I have done.”By Anita Firebaugh [email protected]