October 26, 2021

Robertson leaving Tompkins County Legislature

DRYDEN — After serving 20 years on the Tompkins County Legislature representing the western half of Dryden, Martha Robertson won’t be seeking reelection this fall.

“It’s a good time for us to do other things — lots of other things,” Robertson said Tuesday, noting her husband has been retired for almost two years and she turns 70 in June.

She said she and her husband want to do a lot of traveling once the coronavirus pandemic is over.

“Our children live in Boston and Colorado,” Robertson said. “We’re itching to see them.”

Robertson, a Democrat, became a legislator in 2001 after getting involved in a community environmental issue in the late 1990s and being asked by several people to run, including a town board member.

During that time, Robertson has served on almost every committee the Tompkins County Legislature has, including six years as Legislature’s chairwoman.

Robertson said she’s proud of a number of initiatives, including:

  • Not building a 135-bed jail

She said the county went against the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision order to build the facility and instead invested money into alternatives to incarceration. Now the jail houses on average anywhere from 30 to 35 people a day.

“That’s been a long sweep with many partners involved with that,” she said.

  • Affordable housing.

“Housing has always been an issue of equity and justice,” she said.

Eleven years ago, the county created the Housing Development Fund to help people afford to create affordable housing in the county, she said.

  • Energy and the environment

“We got the Public Service Commission to approve the NYSEG Non-Pipe Alternative, the first such gas-reduction initiative in the state,” she said.

The Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency also created housing and energy policies. Robertson also said she helped get affordable housing on Slaterville Road in Dryden through Habitat for Humanity.

Although Robertson will leave the Legislature, she said she will remain in the community and continue to be involved in it, but now she’ll have the “ability to pick and choose what to do.”

“I really love to garden and it seems every year I have to say, ‘Oh I’ll get to that next year,’” Robertson said.

Dryden Town Supervisor Jason Leifer said he was surprised by the move.

“She did a lot of great things for the town and county,” Leifer said. “She’ll be missed.”

Leifer, who previously ran for the 125th Assembly District seat, said he wouldn’t comment on whether he would run for Robertson’s seat or for re-election as the Dryden town supervisor.

Robertson said people are welcome to reach out to her if they’re thinking of running for office. The best way to reach her is via email at mrobertson@tompkins-co.org.