Born and raised in Colorado, Ramona Martinez, a fifth-generation Coloradoan, has worked tirelessly to ensure that women, minorities, and local businesses would thrive. A high-school dropout and teen mother, Martinez overcame huge obstacles to become a moving force in lifting the status of women and minorities.
After opening a highly successful business, Martinez’s desire to help others and work with her community led her to decide to run for local office. In 1987, she was elected to Denver City Council, where she served four consecutive terms and became the first Latina to be elected president, holding that position for three terms.
During her time with the Denver City Council, Martinez took the lead on many initiatives that benefited women, minorities, and small businesses. Her leadership led to the adoption of an affirmative action plan that opened the door for minorities and women-owned businesses at Denver International Airport. She persuaded the Colorado Contractors Association to train women to work as heavy-equipment operators, giving women access to these higher-paying jobs. She sponsored legislation to accept federal funds to open health clinics in Denver high schools and formed a service-provider coalition to coordinate information sharing, job training programs, after-school activities, and food and housing programs. One of the projects she was most proud of completing was building a new recreation center in one of Denver’s oldest and poorest neighborhoods.
In 1996, the Clinton administration tapped Martinez to serve on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as an at-large member. She held this position for 16 years, working steadily with the administration and Congress to gain more representation for women and minorities. She was an officer for the Women’s Caucus, the largest caucus within the DNC. She also served as chair for the 2004 convention in Boston for the Hispanic Caucus, and later was elected the Hispanic Caucus National Chair and chaired the 2008 convention for the caucus. Through her perseverance, more women were featured as emcees and keynote speakers at these conventions. Martinez continues to work to improve opportunities for women and minorities at all levels.