ITHACA, N.Y. –– During the Tuesday night meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, long-time Legislator Martha Robertson announced that she will not seek reelection, meaning this will be her last year representing the western portion of Dryden (District 13.)

During her announcement, Robertson reflected on her 20-year career in local government and compared what challenges officials faced then compared to the uncertainty facing the country now in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I first ran for legislature in 2001, when everything changed on a single September day,” Robertson said. “We thought those were uncertain times, little did we know.”

She continued, listing accomplishments that have stood out to her during her tenure.

“One that stands out was our decision not to build a new jail for 135 human beings, 100 more than we are housing tonight. From 2008 through 2014 we fought back on fracking, with speeches, hearings, and rallies all over the state. Housing has always been an issue of equity and justice – leading, for example, to the Community Housing Development Fund and the Housing Summit in 2016. We got the Public Service Commission to approve the NYSEG Non-Pipe Alternative, the first such gas-reduction initiative in the state,” she said. “On the IDA, we developed progressive housing and energy policies and made grants to childcare providers to help them stay afloat through COVID. We got New York State to help us expand the airport, move the DOT from the waterfront, and pay for the third County court.”

Legislature Chair Leslyn McBean-Clairborne thanked Robertson for her service and for her announcement –– legislators and city officials alike have begun announcing their campaign plans in recent weeks. Legislators serve four year terms, with an end date in 2021.

“Thank you for sharing with us and sharing some of the highlights  and some of the things we’ve fought back against and the things we’ve put in place. we look forward to work this year and to move some more needles,” McBean-Clairborne said. “The time isn’t up yet.” 

Robertson added that her future following her last year on the legislature will include spending time with family and relaxing.

“We’re looking forward to getting vaccinated, dragging our suitcases out of the attic and throwing our dog in the car,” she said. 

Robertson concluded by encouraging people to run for her seat saying, “anyone interested in serving our community can call me and i can tell them what a good gig this is… It’s been an absolute honor to serve the people of Dryden and Tompkins County and to work with the people of county government.” 

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at