About three years ago, Roxanne Martinez marched to the polls with high school students voting for the first time. When one student, Joey Flores, walked out of the voting booth, he asked her, “Why are you not on the ballot?”
It took a few years to prepare, but Martinez, 41, got her name on the ballot. Now, she is the District 9 trustee for Fort Worth ISD.
Martinez defeated opponent Cade Lovelace in a runoff election in June with 54% of the votes, totaling 2,131 to Lovelace’s 1,746.
Flores, now 20, knew her through her work in the community. Martinez helped coach her nephew’s youth football team, which is how she met Flores when he was a kid.
Now a junior at Texas Christian University, Flores said he remembers Martinez at the games, cheering for the players and bringing snacks.
As he grew up, Flores said, Martinez helped with the high school athletic program, too, encouraging the students, trying to get community support, and making sure they had enough to eat before the games.
“It was constant, things like that, that she would just do out of the kindness of her heart, because she’s from that community,” Flores said.
Martinez grew up in the schools in her district. She attended M.H. Moore Elementary, W.A. Meacham Middle and Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School and is now focused on making decisions on the school board that help her neighborhood schools improve.
After graduating high school, Martinez earned her bachelor degree in journalism and communication at the University of Florida and later a graduate certificate in marketing management from the University of Dallas.
She now runs her own marketing business, Roxstar Marketing, with local clients such as Girls Inc. of Tarrant County and national clients like the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation based in New Jersey.
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“For the first 18 years of my life, I never left this four-mile radius,” Martinez said outside the Diamond Hill Community Center. “I had no idea until I started to get out there and realize that there are things outside, there’s this growing Fort Worth city.”
With that realization came another — the inequality of schools in Fort Worth, she said. That inequity is in infrastructure, quality teachers and a lack of investment in some schools compared with others, she said.
“When there’s a lack of investment in the community surrounding the schools, you see that inequities start to affect the schools themselves,” Martinez said. “When I got involved at Northside and Diamond Hill, when I would go out seeking sponsorships and donors, a lot of times I would have to go outside the community.”
This is because her community lacks big businesses, she said. Most of the community is made up of locally owned businesses, which often lack the resources for big sponsorships for booster clubs or teacher supplies. She said she was often told by some chain restaurants and grocery stores to ask for support from the locations in her neighborhood, to which she would respond they were not there.
A lack of economic development in a community hurts the school facilities, Martinez said. When she walked into W.A. Meacham Middle School as a volunteer, she noticed it hadn’t changed much in 25 years.
Not improving infrastructure in schools can contribute to higher transfer rates, she said. If a student is in a classroom without air conditioning, parents will try to find a new school.
As a trustee, Martinez said, she thinks the district has made good progress in racial equity with initiatives like a Racial Equity Committee. She also wants to help the district find solutions to issues such as low reading levels and poor math scores.
Her goals are rooted in the neighborhood. Before she even considered running for the school board, Martinez was involved in youth sports coaching her nephew, which is how she met her husband, Gerald, who was coaching his nephew as well.
As a coach, Martinez realized how inequitable it was in her neighborhood, where kids did not have a safe place to play.
A couple of years later, Martinez took over as the president of the nonprofit Diamond Hill North Side Youth Association. Now, more money is being invested into the community. In September, the construction of a new $10.9 million community center started.
The organization aims to foster both physical and intellectual abilities of children in the area, she said. It does this through sports, mentorships and other health initiatives. It even secured a grant to integrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math learning in sports recently.
“We believe that youth who are healthy, safe and educated ultimately, feel better, safer and healthier,” she said.
Her work with youth helped her in her campaign, and so did Tarrant County College board president Teresa Ayala, a neighbor and friend of Martinez, who gave her advice and guidance.
“Basically, my message was: However you campaign is going to basically set the tone for how you’re going to serve,” Ayala, 55, said. “One of Roxanne’s strengths is her ability to connect with folks. People trust her. And she makes a connection with people. And so, I knew that if she would just go out and campaign the way that she intended to serve, that people would just gravitate to her and that was really my basic suggestion to her.”
Martinez said going out and campaigning in a pandemic was difficult. She even caught COVID-19 twice, but it resulted in her winning the seat.
Ayala said Martinez’s sincerity and care for children will help her be a good leader.
“She’s just very open about things and she’s very transparent, and there’s nothing pretentious about her at all,” she said. “What you see is what you get with Roxanne — and I think people really appreciate that.”
Martinez hopes her leadership will show in how she serves, she said. She’s spent years helping parents navigate the school systems and trying to get them resources while she volunteered in the booster clubs or parent teacher associations. She plans to continue that on the school board.
“My whole purpose in serving on the school board in my home and being involved in the community is to serve,” she said. “I’m here so that we have a better place to live, a better place for our kids to learn.”
Being a good leader is about “looking outside of yourself,” she said. That can drive positive change in Fort Worth. Her Christian faith drives her service, Martinez, who attends Waves of Faith Church, said. She strives to be a servant leader who listens first.
Three years ago, Flores wanted her to run because he wanted a champion for the community directly from the community, he said.
“To just see, and I mean see someone that we see on an almost daily basis, make it into a position of leadership, that shows us that it is for sure possible,” he said. “We have direct evidence of her doing it. And it’s just really nice to see. It’s very inspiring for sure, because she’s just getting started.”
Roxanne Martinez bio:
Birthplace: Fort Worth
Family: Husband, Gerald, and two children, Serenity, 10 and Jayson, 10
Education: Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School (Fort Worth ISD); bachelor of science in journalism and communications, University of Florida; graduate certificate in marketing management, University of Dallas
Work experience: PR/Marketing for Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, Resource Recovery Council, Allied Electronics, DFW International Airport and Amplus Agency before launching Roxstar Marketing
Volunteer experience: Site-Based Decision Making committees and various volunteer roles within Fort Worth ISD schools; booster club for Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School; Hispanic Women’s Network of Texas; Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center; Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; City of Fort Worth Community Action Partners; Susan G. Komen Greater Fort Worth; North Texas Youth Football Association; Diamond Hill North Side Youth Association
First job: Warehouse associate at former Radio Shack distribution center in Diamond Hill
Advice for someone learning to be a leader: Listen, first and foremost, never stop learning and lift up others along the journey. Leadership is about empowering and inspiring others.
Best advice ever received: Let all that you do be done in love. Always do your best. Leave things better than you found them.
Kristen Barton is an enterprise reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.