Judge Joe Martinez retires after 19 years of service to the County

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Justice of the Peace for Precinct 1 (formerly 1 and 3) Joe Martinez retired from Gray County yesterday after 19 years of service. Martinez took office in April 2001 after spending 20 years in the banking industry.

“I was in the banking business for 20 years and the banking job played out,” Martinez said. “I didn’t want to chase that rainbow anymore so I thought I’d find a job here and stay here (in Pampa). At that time I had made an acquaintance with (former Justice of The Peace) Kurt Curfman through banking. We met one day and he said Bob Muns is retiring and there will be an unexpired term and the Commissioners Court is taking applications.”

Martinez took the opportunity and later in the week then-County Judge Richard Peet gave Martinez the job. Even though he had limited experience for the position, Martinez said he had a great clerk in Freda Bezner

“She was the clerk for Bob Muns and she was the one to help give me the cues I needed,” Martinez said. “Judge Curfman was my mentor for the judicial tasks of what to do. He let me go to unattended deaths with him and let me sit in his courtroom so I could see how he handled certain civil matters. He was real helpful to getting me to understand the ambiance of what to expect.”

Martinez said he has found an avenue in his life where he can give himself over to the public whole-heartedly.

“Before, it wasn’t that way,” Martinez said. “You had to behave in the way the industry requires you to behave. This way I can give as much of myself as I can judicially. That means people can come see me and talk to me about things and I don’t mind. Even if it’s to vent. 

“I can’t give legal advice, but I know certain procedures and how to get certain things they wanted done. I can give them the road map, but they have to take the journey themselves.”

Martinez said the biggest challenge he faces is the legislature meeting two years and passing new procedures.

“There’s things they come up with that changes procedures and some new laws that fall in our jurisdiction as Class C stuff,” Martinez said. “That permeated a whole anticipation (during legislative sessions). Some years were better than others.”

Martinez said there was never any resentment towards it but certainly a time he kept an eye on legislative activity.

As a Justice of the Peace, Martinez’s job description included unattended deaths, mental health checks (should County Judge be unavailable), civil cases (disputes in the amount of $20,000), evictions, occupational license hearings, Class C Misdemeanors filed in the court, warrants and magistrations at the jail.

Martinez has worked every day since he was a teenager. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1967 and served until 1971. 

“I got sent on a tour to Turkey for 13 months,” Martinez said. “My last 26 months were spent at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.”

While Martinez enjoyed the service and grew up in a military family, he didn’t want the vagabond lifestyle the military can often lead to. The military lifestyle didn’t stay away from Martinez for long, as he served in the National Guard for both New Mexico (from 1977-79) and Texas (1979 to 2003). He was even mobilized to Fort Hood in the 2002 for 10 months. 

“I’m an Army brat, so I know, I lived that,” Martinez said. “I knew what my father had to do and it’s kind of hard on family. At least in our family.”

He earned a bachelor’s degree from University of Texas- El Paso in business administration in 1974. Ironically, while working for Beneficial Finance, Martinez was moved four times before arriving in Pampa in 1980. 

“The company moved us four times in four years and we ended up in Pampa at the corner of Ballard and Francis,” Martinez said. “I got moved here and I was here for about a year. I really wanted to be in banking, it was one of my goals at graduation. In 1981 there was an opening at First National Bank.”

Martinez worked at FNB in consumer lending through several bank mergers, his job continued to change.

“I was sticking with it and learning whatever they had me learn,” Martinez said. “My role as a consumer lender changed from provisional consumer lender with certain specific duties. With Bank of America, you became a consumer banker.”

Martinez ended his banking run at National Bank of Commerce in 2001 before becoming the Justice of the Peace.

At 72 years old, Martinez doesn’t have any big plans for retirement, just to sit back and enjoy his family. Martinez is married to his wife of 43 years, Lori, and the pair have two daughters, Aimee and Amanda.

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