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City arborist Mark Martin retiring after 26 years with city

SALISBURY — Mark Martin was late to his own retirement celebration Wednesday, but it was for a good reason.

Martin saw a little dog in the middle of the road and felt compelled to stop and help.

The old chihuahua could not see well and Martin said someone had to do something before he was hit. He stopped, picked up the dog and asked some of the people who lived nearby if the pooch belonged to them before driving to nearby animal organizations to see if anyone was open or could take him.

The little guy ended up on Facebook. When Martin eventually arrived at his party at City Lake Park, the small gathering of city employees and Tree Board members wondered why he left his truck running. He was keeping the pup warm.

Martin on Wednesday was given a recognition by the tree board, which is also having five trees planted in Cherokee National Forest in his honor. There was also cake shaped like a tree stump.

It wasn’t the first time Martin has gone out of his way to do the right thing during his career with the city. He started working for Salisbury 26 years ago for a work study and went on to spend 20 years as a city arborist.

He spent four years in the Air Force and discharged as a sergeant. He was a computer specialist, but took a horticulture course at Central Piedmont Community College and fell in love with plants. He needed the work study job to graduate.

Salisbury has had a Tree City USA designation for 33 years, and Martin said it is rare for a city the size of Salisbury to have a dedicated arborist on staff. He also serves as liaison to the city’s Tree Board.

He is retiring at 55, but he will stay busy. He has more trees to take care of at his family farm and will take care of his mother as well. He hopes to go back to school and finish his degree, but he is not sure what his major would be.

He is retiring early enough to do what he wants and said the world is wide open to him right now.

Martin comes from a military family. His mother and father were in the Air Force as well and his wife was in the Army. Martin said he was a military brat most of his young life but still had experience on the farm. He joined the military planning to further his education.

Martin is not sure what he will miss most about the city at this point or how he will feel after retirement. His last day is Jan. 1.

Stephen Brown, city landscape architect and project manager, will succeed Martin as Tree Board liaison. He has known Martin for most of his life.

“He’s a hard worker. He knows his trees,” Brown said, commending Martin for his diligence, never taking a tree down unnecessarily and adding he could walk the town and tell you every species of tree.

Brown said Martin has also been instrumental in the city maintaining its Tree City USA designation.

Tree Board member Lisa Shaver Williams said the board was only able to meet once at the beginning of this year, but Brown expects the meetings to restart virtually in early 2021. Shaver Williams has been on the board since 2018 and comes from a plant nursery background.

“I love him to death,” Shaver Williams said of Martin. “He did so much for our board.”

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