It's been a busy year for Michael Martinez.
As president of the National Hispanic Bar Association he's spent time working with White House Chief of Staff, Howard Baker, to help shape policy towards Hispanics in this country.He has worked with Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy to further opportunities for Hispanics (Kennedy now has an Hispanic law clerk).
Martinez was also one of 100 Hispanics invited to a leadership conference where he helped frame an agenda for the 1990s. On top of that, he works hand-in-glove with actor Ed Olmos to build role models, speaks at meetings and conferences coast to coast and manages to carry on a strong local law practice.
Not bad for a boy who grew up in the mining town of Lark, Utah.
Martinez will step down from his national post in September. The year has been hectic and productive. And though he refuses to get disheartened about the plight of his people, Martinez does feel the frustrations.
"There's been very little upward mobility among Hispanics in Utah," he says. "We have a 50 percent high school drop-out rate - about the national average - and many Hispanic professionals are discouraged and a bit cynical. There's actually been a bit of a backlash against the Hispanic community. It's ironic. People are upset because they think Hispanics get so many privileges, when the truth is those privileges seldom materialize."
To help level all that out, Martinez has pushed his own private law practice locally towards labor law and real estate hassles for low and moderate income families.
He's also taken posts on the Salt Lake Community College Institutional Council, the Governor's Hispanic Council (he's the chairman) and plans to help on a couple of other non-profit boards that help Hispanics with serious drinking and health problems.
He'll also be stumping a bit in the fall. He hopes to encourage Hispanics to get out the vote.
"We make up about 8 percent of the voters in Salt Lake County," he says, "but you never know how many will turn out. Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, but some years they feel strongly enough to turn out, other years no."
As for the political future of Mike Martinez himself, many people are waiting to see if something appeals to him. People who talk about the man tend to use words such as "moral," "tireless" and "competent."
And no matter which party you belong, those are not bad words to build a campaign on.