Loganville Councilman Rey Martinez returns to City Hall after deployment to the Middle East for the U.S. Navy Reserves.
LOGANVILLE — For the first time in months, Rey Martinez attended this month’s Loganville City Council meeting out of his pajamas.
And he didn’t have to set his alarm.
Martinez, a petty officer in the U.S. Navy Reserves, spent much of the past year serving his small town from more than 7,000 miles away, deployed on a ship in the Middle East.
“It’s great to be back,” said the councilman who spent months setting his alarm for 3:30 a.m. to call into sometimes lengthy council sessions. “I loved it. It was nice to wear a suit.”
The deployment, Martinez’s third in more than two decades in the Reserves, included long hours providing security on the U.S.N.S. Henson, a supply ship, for high-value assetts, including hazardous materials, weapons and equipment in Bahrain and Dubai.
The head of the city’s public safety committee, Martinez was in charge of a security unit, basically taking on a role of police and protection in one of the most dangerous regions of the world.
Back home, though, his city was going through one of its hardest times.
Not only were important issues like the opening of city to package stores and Sunday sales of alcohol confronting residents, but the city’s beloved mayor health failed quickly.
In March, Ray Nunley stepped down from the city’s helm, and then Vice-Mayor Dan Curry resigned so he could run for the mayor’s slot.
With two positions vacant, Martinez’s role on the City Council was even more important. Without his vote, the council could not reach a quorum.
“I did everything I could to represent (the people), whether I was here or overseas,” said Martinez, who was the second councilman to serve on deployment during the past decade, after Mike Lynch. “I would set up my alarm clock, and I would make sure I would call. … Some of the meetings were pretty long. It was hard to keep up.”
When Martinez left, Nunley and City Manager Bill Jones promised to make every effort to keep him informed. And the councilman now cherishes a message left on his phone by Nunley, who died just weeks after resigning from office.
“We did so much,” Martinez said, pointing to the revenues that will come soon from the package sales stores and apartments that were struck down in one council session, as well as essential issues like the purchase of police cruisers. “I was that extra vote to do it, or we would have had a lame duck council.”
While his first deployment, when his sons were still in elementary school, was likely the hardest on his family, Martinez said this most recent one was hardest on him.
He was forced to close his Cuban restaurant and let go his two employees. But on Monday, he was back in the kitchen, setting his black beans to soak in spices.
Next week, he plans to reopen the restaurant, maybe only for mid-week lunches, as he takes more time, still on active duty, to spend time with his teenage sons. And he intends to use the weekends to take his food out to local festivals.
Martinez sees retirement in his military future. But he does want to continue his public service. Next week, he plans to qualify for another council campaign.
One of the hardest moments, he added, was missing the funeral for the mayor who may not have supported him when he first ran for office but that did everything to help the military man fulfill his duties.