“We are excited that the commission has recognized the growth of
the Hispanic population of Northwest Ohio, demonstrated by the
new commissioner,” said OCHLA commissioner Dr. Greg Guzmán,
who has represented metro Toledo for the past few years.
Ms. Martínez credits the growing rural Latino population to
large dairy farms that have taken over the landscape near the
Ohio-Indiana border. Those so-called “megafarms” still require a
large migrant workforce, many of whom settle into permanent jobs
“It does allow us to cover a greater span of all of Northwest
Ohio, which is really comprised of upwards of 16 to 18 different
counties that include both urban and rural,” said Dr. Guzmán.
“Not only is the urban population at the center of the Latino
growth present, but you’re seeing the rural population grow as
well. The additional commissioner allows us to serve both
Ms. Martínez, 58, is the daughter of migrant workers who worked
the fields of Paulding County before settling in Ottawa. She now
works as a librarian in the Continental school district and as a
monitor for the online learning of at-risk students to ensure
they can graduate.
Much of her professional history, though, has been spent working
for Pathstone in Liberty Center, with the children
of migrant farmworkers. Ms. Martínez ran a program called
Youth Experiencing Success (YES), a federally-funded effort
formerly known as Rural Opportunities. She also has
worked for the Ohio migrant education program, as a job coach,
and as a housing coordinator based in Napoleon and
Defiance. She’ll serve on OCHLA’s education committee.
“Education was one of my biggest things that my parents always
impressed on me,” said the Pandora-Gilboa High School graduate.
“They said, ‘You have to graduate. You have to be better than we
are. So that’s something I’ve always been passionate about.”
The stability of family life for Latinos is just as important to
Ms. Martínez, who is approaching her 40th wedding
anniversary. She has two grown sons in their mid-30s and six
grandchildren between the ages of seven and 16.
Part of her work history involves educating migrant farmworkers
about the H2A guest worker visa program. Her parents were among
the early members of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee
(FLOC). Ms. Martínez studied bilingual education at the
University of Findlay and hopes to use those skills to
bridge gaps between farmworker families and available services.
In particular, she wants to ensure migrant children are
receiving a proper education while in Ohio.
“They’re coming here to work. They’re not coming here to send
their kids to school,” she said. “A lot of times the kids are
being bounced from Florida to Michigan to Texas, Ohio, Indiana,
the family unit is going to work to make some money and we’re
going to pull you out of school.”
For example, Ms. Martínez may quickly become an important link
in FLOC’s work to vaccinate migrant farmworkers this spring and
summer against COVID-19. FLOC plans to use its mobile
clinic that has traveled the migrant camps in past summers as a
traveling vaccination center. The work of educating farm
families on the merits and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine
likely will fall to OCHLA and other trusted organizations in
order to gain their acceptance. That won’t be an easy task at
While the governor’s appointment became official March 3, the
pandemic prevented Ms. Martínez from getting onboarded by OCHLA
staff until last week. But she will hit the ground running,
attending her first commission meeting via Zoom April 13.
Other commissioners include: chairman Manuel López of
Springfield; vice chair Dr. Elena Foulis of Columbus; secretary
Beth Guzmán-Bowman of Columbus; José Feliciano, Jr., of suburban
Cleveland; Michael Florez of Cincinnati; Mary Santiago of
Lorain; Rev. Juan Campbell of suburban Youngstown; Anthony
Simms-Howell of Cincinnati; and Dan Molina of Loveland.