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Colleagues remember local leader

Photo by Carly Farrell

Photo by Carly Farrell

ALBANY, Ga. -- Wendy Martin, the person charged with pushing the agenda and interests of local business into the laps of local legislators in Atlanta, has succumbed to a fight with cancer. She was 56.

In title, Martin was the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce's lobbyist and was responsible for being the mouthpiece of the chamber's member businesses under the Gold Dome in Atlanta.

But in reality, chamber officials say Martin was much more than that.

To them, she was the very heart of the organization.

"Wendy was a beloved, trusted and respected member of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce team," Chamber President/CEO Catherine Glover said Friday. "She will be remembered for her tenacity, grace and love of family. She'll always be in our dearest memories."

Born in Indianapolis, Martin spent most of her life in Lee County. She served on the Lee County Board of Education between 1988 and 2000. In 1994 she became the board's chairman and held that post until 1998.

And despite being a Lee County, and then a Crisp County, resident near the end of her life, Albany-area officials say that she kept the interests of those in the metro area close to her heart.

Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg, said he and Martin first crossed paths when she was on the school board and he was a conservative radio commentator.

"Going back to my days on conservative talk radio, we didn't always see eye to eye; in fact, you could say that we were political adversaries," Rynders said. "But after joining the chamber, we became political friends."

Rynders said he counted Martin as one of the few people, in either Atlanta or Albany, he knew he could truly trust, "and in my line of work, trust is everything."

"I could talk with her, strategize with her, but most importantly, I knew I could trust her," Rynders said. "The chamber is going to have a hard time filling her shoes."

Martin had been battling cancer for the last several years, a fact she kept hidden from even the closest of friends until the last 12 to 18 months. And even then, few knew how tough the road in front of her really was.

Donna Gray, who worked mere feet from Martin at the chamber, called her friend the "epitome of dignity and class under pressure," saying that Martin never once complained about her situation even when she was forced to take the aid of a walker in the waning months to get around.

Funeral services for Martin will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Warwick United Methodist Church.