Dr. Christa Martin, left, confers with Columbia City Manager Tony Massey. Dr. Martin is the immediate-past vice mayor and the city’s newest planning commissioner. Photo by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

COLUMBIA, TN — Dr. Christa Martin is leaving her position as vice mayor, but she’s not leaving city hall. The city council elected her to the planning commission.

The council also unanimously voted to name Fairview Park’s community center the Dr. Christa Secrest Martin Community Center; signage to be posted soon. Previously, the center had no name.

As a planning commissioner, Dr. Martin will be in a position to influence development and approval of a museum without walls; an event space with monuments and water features advocated by the Columbia Peace and Justice Initiative. CPJI envisions a green space celebrating the city’s African American history, including what’s been called the 1946 race riot when Black businessmen defended their 8th Street business district against a police-backed mob.

Martin’s work on the planning commission starts in January. She’s finishing the unexpired term of Randy McBroom who succeeds her as vice mayor since the Nov. 8 election.

Columbia’s new planning commissioner served 22 years as a member of the council representing the 3rd Ward. She completed two 4-year terms as vice mayor. During those 30 years, she advocated and oversaw improvements for Fairview Park. They include: renovation of the center; improvements to the concession stand, tennis courts and shelter; the addition of exercise equipment, bleachers and night lights; and replacement of a cyclone fence with a wooden fence.

Martin was honored in November during a Legacy Luncheon that raised more than $65,000 for the Columbia Peace and Justice Initiative. CPJI President Trent Ogilvie says additional end-of-year donations will increase that amount.

Martin has always had an interest in planning commission decisions, but didn’t request the appointment. Many of the commission’s decisions are recommendations to the council. Martin says in recent years she’s noticed more real estate developments being appealed to the council by applicants whose plans were not approved by the commission.

Martin’s 30 years on the council provides her with an historic view of land-use and circumstances pre-dating local planning and zoning. For example, she’s aware of a vehicle service business surrounded by a single family home neighborhoods east of public housing.

Since 1992, when Martin was appointed to the unexpired term of her councilman, she’s promoted a new fire hall, better police headquarters, a new city hall, school partnerships and expanded parks. She helped make Columbia the state’s first municipality to have Juneteenth as a paid holiday for city employees.

Martin’s full time job is as the assistant to Columbia State Community College President Janet Smith for access and diversity, a job likened by Smith to that of “an associate vice president,” an executive position addressing issues regarding students, faculty, staff and college funding.

Martin teaches Sunday school at New Smyrna Cumberland Presbyterian Church where she’s an elder. She’s been a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority since 1987 and serves on nearly a dozen public and private panels

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...