From left, Dante, Mark, Liliana, and Giovanni Senmartin. Mark ‘could not have done it’ without the love and support of his wife and children. CONTRIBUTED

Mark Senmartin made waves when he debuted his first city council campaign slogan: committed, not connected.

Since then, he hasn’t backed down. Serving for eight years on City Council after his first election in 2013, Senmartin described his service through one term as mayor and two terms as vice mayor as, “maybe the right guy, but definitely at the right time.”

As he looks back on his years of service, he is proud to hang his hat on many accomplishments, but specifically noted his impact on Marathon’s city charter.

When Senmartin was first elected to the city council, council members could serve for a total of three two-year terms before sitting out for one year. “Every year someone was running, and that makes for bad decision-making in government,” he said. “You always have to be worried about your decisions and if people will like you and vote for you.”

One of his first actions as a councilman was to look at the city’s charter and change, among other things, the council members’ terms of service from two to three years. “It was the best decision we made,” Senmartin said. “More things got done without fear of losing a vote, and I really think it helped the town progress.”

Senmartin also takes great pride in the council’s accomplishments with regards to workforce housing. “In the time I’ve been there, we’ve put over 700 affordable housing units on the ground, and we just approved more than 300 new units. I think it’s great being able to bring that affordable workforce housing to the people that need it.”

Along the way, Senmartin has never been afraid to go against the grain. “There’s been a lot of times when it was a 4 to 1 vote, and I was the only ‘No,’” he admitted. He recalled when his controversial first campaign slogan of “committed, not connected” prompted others to mail out hundreds of copies of his previous code violation for removing invasive trees to Marathon residents. “When I first saw it, I was pissed. But as the days went by, people would come into my shop and be like, ‘I don’t know who you are, but if they want you out of council that bad, you’ve got my vote.’”

According to Senmartin, his calling card is his willingness to prioritize Marathon residents over personal or other special interests. “I’ve always tried to make the right decisions for the public, for the residents,” he said. “The comment I always got was, ‘you were the councilman for the people,’ and that’s the biggest compliment I could get.”

Others echo Senmartin’s self assessment. “Mark Senmartin didn’t play politics like a politician — and that’s a compliment,” said fellow councilman John Bartus. “We didn’t always agree on everything, but I never had any doubt that Mark’s only motivation was what he thought was best for Marathon.”

“Mark is one of those rare individuals who always did what he felt was right, regardless of whether it was popular,” said Realtor Josh Mothner. “He would listen to all sides, but in the end he always voted his conscience. We will miss that level of integrity on the council.”

Moving forward, Senmartin hopes to see future councils work to return to an environment in which more concessions can be made to arrive at a mutually agreed-upon final product. But for now, he is satisfied with his work. “At the end of my eight years, all you can hope for is to leave it a little better than you found it. I really think I accomplished that.”

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Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.