James L. Martin (1934- ) received a B.A. (1957) and a M.S. (1967) in economics from the University of Maryland, and a Th.M. (1961) in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary. From 1963-1967 Martin served as the assistant director of federal relations at the National Association of Counties. In 1967 he joined the staff of the NGA and embarked on a career that would span thirty-one years. Martin served as deputy director from 1967 until February 1979. He then became the legislative counsel and director, a position he would hold until his retirement in October 1998. Following his retirement, Martin continued to lend his expertise to the NGA as a consultant.
As lead legislative counsel, Martin was the chief point person for coordinating the legislative agenda of the nation’s governors with the White House and congressional leadership. Much of his work focused on issues related to governmental financing, especially the distribution of federal monies to state and local entities. Martin also worked to strengthen intergovernmental coordination and cooperation. Over the course of his tenure at the National Governors’ Association (NGA), Martin worked with such notable chairs of the governors as John Carlin, William Clinton, John Ashcroft, and Tommy Thompson.
As a policy coordinator and developer Martin fostered strong relationships both on Capitol Hill and with other organizations advocating for a balanced federal-state relationship. Martin forged and nurtured coalitions, managed personnel, implemented work plans, crafted policy, coordinated meetings and conferences, prepared position statements, and lobbied on behalf of the governors. He was also a liaison to the thirty-five Washington offices of individual governors, as well as the coordinator for the State and Local Coalition. In addition, he had extensive contact with members of the Big Seven, the executive directors of seven national organizations advocating for state and local government. Martin was known for his non-partisan approach to politics, his ability to compromise, his thorough understanding of the legislative process, and his work behind the scenes. He received the Distinguished Service to State Government Award from the NGA in 1978. In 1987 he was again honored by the NGA with a special resolution of appreciation.
Note on the National Governors’ Association
The National Governors’ Association was founded in 1908 and has become one of the most respected and powerful lobbying organizations in Washington, D.C. The NGA is the voice of the nation’s fifty governors, the territories (American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) and the commonwealths (Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico). It is bipartisan in nature and is the primary vehicle by which governors can express their mutual concerns, develop policy, and take collective action on issues related to federal-state relations. A chairman and vice chairman, each from different parties, are elected each year. The Executive Committee, composed of nine members, runs the organization. There are three standing committees: Economic Development and Commerce, Human Relations, and Natural Resources. Special task forces are called upon to address particular issues, and each year a “Chairman’s Initiative” task force is created to focus attention on a special interest of the chairman. The NGA meets twice annually, once in the winter in Washington, and once during a summer annual meeting. It is at these meetings that policy positions are adopted, with two-thirds of the governors needed to approve.