Eva Martinez – from migrant labor to career as Wilson County clerk

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Wilson County Clerk Eva Martinez

Wilson County Clerk Eva Martinez

When Eva Martinez first became Wilson County clerk, Ronald Reagan was president, “information technology” was a new term to most people, and the Democratic Party dominated county politics.

Now, after holding the office for more than 33 years, Eva plans to retire when her current term finishes at the end of December.

Looking back on her career, she readily identifies her father — who passed away in 2016 — as her primary role model.

Hard work

“Dad believed in hard work and the importance of education,” she said.

Despite being of humble means, Nick Cardenas Silva Jr. made sure his daughter attended Floresville’s Sacred Heart Catholic School for eight years, followed by four years at Floresville High School. However, when school was out for the summer months, the family traveled to perform agricultural work.

“I am the product of a migrant laborer,” Eva said.

Family photos and other mementos belonging to Wilson County Clerk Eva Martinez line the front of her desk in the county courthouse. She is continuing to work through the end of December, when she will retire after working in the county clerk’s office for 47 years — with 33 years in charge. GREGORY RIPPS/Wilson County News

Family photos and other mementos belonging to Wilson County Clerk Eva Martinez line the front of her desk in the county courthouse. She is continuing to work through the end of December, when she will retire after working in the county clerk’s office for 47 years — with 33 years in charge. GREGORY RIPPS/Wilson County News

Jobs frequently took the family to other states, as far as Idaho and Wisconsin, where — beginning at age 4 — she helped pick crops ranging from cotton to potatoes.

During her 16th summer, Eva took a job with a food distribution center near where Pruski’s Service Center is now. There she received her first taste of clerical work.

“I typed the orders and alphabetized them,” she said. “I loved that.”

The following year, after graduating from high school in 1974 and turning 18, her father had instructions for Eva.

“He told me to go register to vote and not to come home until I had a job,” she recalled with a smile.

Career with county

A family friend recommended that Eva visit then- County Clerk Richard Bolf. He said he was looking for someone to substitute for two months for one of his staff who was going to have a baby. She applied for the temporary job and was accepted.

She must have done well, because when the two months ended, Bolf offered to hire her to fill the full-time position of another employee who was leaving.

“I told him I wanted to go to college to become an X-ray technician,” Eva said, but she agreed to continue working for him until she saved enough money for her studies.

A change in career never happened. She continued to work in the county clerk’s office for four years as a deputy clerk and then for 10 years as chief deputy clerk.

Bolf had become another role model.

“I looked up to him,” Eva said. “I told him, ‘I will do everything you tell me to do — unless you tell me to break the law,’” she added with a laugh.

Before Bolf retired in 1988, he said she was ready to take over his position.

This involved two steps: First, on Bolf’s recommendation, county commissioners appointed her county clerk at a September meeting. Second, Eva had to go before the Democratic Party of Wilson County to be nominated for the position, so that her name would appear on the ballot for a special election the following November.

After winning election to complete the last two years of Bolf’s term in office, she was elected to a full four-year term in 1990.

“I served five terms and never drew an election opponent,” Eva said, with appreciation of the trust placed in her.

There were times when she considered trying for a different position.

“But I thought, ‘If I left here, what other problems will I encounter? I can deal with any problems here,’” she said. “I liked the people here and I have never regretted staying.”


Many changes took place during her time in office.

“When I first worked here, someone would come in and ask for something, Mr. Bolf would tell me where to look, I’d find it and prepare the documentation,” she recalled.

Now customers must complete an application form and show some form of identification, Eva explained, and there are some limitations. For example, only the individual or immediate family members can obtain a birth certificate.

“One of my greatest joys is that I have touched people’s lives from beginning to end — with birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds for buying land, licenses for businesses, registration of a brand, death certificates, and probating,” she said.

Another big change over the years is the method of preserving documentation.

“Everything is scanned — everything from 1860 [to the present],” she said. “And most things are online for public access, except for birth and death certificates and discharge records.”

Although the county clerk’s office has kept pace with technology, a visitor will find the office looking much like it did decades ago, which Eva believes helps people feel at home.

Entrusted with records

“I am big on customer service,” she said. “You have entrusted us with your records. When you walk through the door, we’re here to serve you.”

Eva obviously never did pursue a course of study in X-ray technology. However, she has determinedly kept up with continuing education for county clerks, averaging 60 hours a year. She said it’s necessary to keep up with changes in the law.

“Elections were my favorite thing in the world to do,” she said. “The [Texas] secretary of state puts out a manual; there is no gray area.”

She explained that she liked overseeing elections — a duty that was transferred to another county official after the 2016 general election — because it stuck to a specific calendar.

“If you give me a timeline, I will get it done, even if it means working late,” she said.

Plans to travel

Nevertheless, Eva decided after her re-election in 2018 that she would retire at the end of her term.

“I didn’t change my mind,” she said. “I decided I wanted to see the world. I plan to travel extensively.”

In a gesture of continued service to the public, Eva has accepted a two-year appointment to the board of Catholic Life Insurance, based in San Antonio, but she looks forward to spending more time with her mother, Cruz; her son, Matthew; and “B.R.,” her husband of 40 years.

“He’s the man I’ll travel extensively with,” she said with a laugh.

The couple already has scheduled an April trip to Greece.

“My husband lets me follow my heart,” she said. “He’s been very supportive all these years.”