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A Conversation with Colorado’s Youngest County Commissioner


Chris Ellis

Small, rural communities are vibrant, but the young people who grow up in these places find it difficult to resist the allure of bigger cities.  Metropolitan areas offer universities and cultural attractions often unseen in smaller towns.  For some, “city life” is an escape from rural repetition, offering new and exciting experiences.

But for Crestina Martinez, a native of Costilla County, population 3,524, moving to the big city offered the chance to gain new perspectives and learn effective ways to positively influence the lives of individuals living in rural areas.  This opportunity materialized when she was able to attend The Colorado College in Colorado Springs.  Academically, she pursued a double major in Spanish and sociology, and she cultivated her interest in community service outside of the classroom.

With a desire to apply what she learned in college while giving back to her community, Martinez returned to rural Costilla County shortly after graduation.  Not surprisingly, her diligence and devotion to the people of her hometown helped her become a prominent leader in her community.

In 2008, Martinez was elected to serve as County Commissioner for Costilla County.  At the age of 25, this made her the youngest County Commissioner in the history of the state of Colorado.  In this position, Martinez lends a voice for the rural areas of Colorado and ensures that the issues affecting these communities are addressed at the state level.  In addition to serving as County Commissioner, she is a board member for Los Valles Youth Corps and San Luis Valley Health Access Program, Inc., and chairs the Colorado Local Boards of Health.  Martinez is committed to bringing quality, affordable health care to the rural communities of the San Luis Valley and ensuring that the needs of rural populations are discussed on the state level.

As Martinez solidified her position as a leader in the San Luis Valley, she was also acknowledged by state officials for her attentiveness to the needs of rural Colorado.  She was recently appointed to serve on the Colorado State Board of Health, a position that will give her the chance to continue advocating for the wellness of the state’s smaller communities.

Martinez is a tireless advocate for the people living in rural areas of the state and is proud to call Costilla County home.  To complement her dedication to advocating for rural areas, Crestina currently lives and raises cattle with her father and mother in San Acacio Viejo, Colorado.

“In local government, you can see, firsthand, the results of your efforts,” said Martinez. “It is because of the faith and confidence my community has shown that I have the opportunity to live, work and play in my native community.”