Hailey mayor, Martha Burke, or as most know and love her- “Beaver”, is a long-time dedicated woman to this area and community. And while the nickname might not be a common one, it stuck, when her mother coined her (then 18th month Martha) with the name, as she was constantly as “busy as a beaver”. Through elementary school, everyone knew her as Beaver, and now, she proudly holds the endearing title of “Grandma Beaver”.
Her busy beaver days began in California. Burke was born in San Francisco and grew up on the peninsula in Menlo Park near Palo Alto. She enjoyed riding bikes and playing tennis at the nearby Stanford University. Not too long after graduating from college, Burke’s friend, who worked at Smith Barney in New York, decided to move to Ketchum to buy the Christiana Motor Lodge (some might remember it as the old Colonnade).
Burke’s husband, Stony, thought it would be fun to move here, and so they did. After managing the Motor Lodge for nearly three years (working nights allowed them to ski during the day), Stony earned his real estate license and Martha received her teaching credentials. Together they started “adulting” and bought a home in Hailey.
Hailey felt very far away from where they had been living in Ketchum. Back then there were no Woodside or Curtis Subdivisions, no neighborhoods. Pretty much anything cultural going on was in Sun Valley. Twin Falls was the big city to go to for shopping, as retailers in the valley were scarce.
Burke remembers that Country Cousin was the place to go to for gifts. Warm Springs Ranch was a favorite restaurant where she would sneak away to indulge in a scone with honey butter. An even more extravagant outing would mean going to the Christy. That wasn’t in her budget at the time, but it was a fun place to go to with friends. She also enjoyed those moments when unwinding meant fly fishing and listening to the steel drum band at Slaveys.
Watching the torchlight parade is also a fond memory of Burke’s, as well as her parents visiting and taking them on the sleigh ride out Trail Creek. She recalls it just being wonderful and gave her the feeling of living high on the hog!
These days her love for the area- the stunning natural beauty, love of deep canyons, cultural activities, skiing, hiking, rafting down the middle fork, is just as strongly held as her love of the people in this community. For her, Hailey is the “home hearth” of the valley. While Sun Valley has so many great things to offer, she feels this allows Hailey to enjoy those amenities while remaining a family town where neighbors help neighbors.
That strong sense of community in Burke led her to serve as a board member for the Friedman Memorial Airport for over 15 years, and as a Hailey city councilwoman for over 20 years.
Burke was part of the last master plan for the airport (over the previous 15 years) and will be a part of the next. She worked on relocating the airport and was strongly moving toward it. She understands when people complain about the negative impacts, but she feels there are also equal, positive ones. Safeguarding the communities while providing reliable service is a big responsibility that she recognizes. Just as Sun Valley relied heavily on the railroad, she feels without the airport, we as a valley would not make it.
While Burke was content as serving as councilwoman, she was encouraged by the exiting Mayor, Fritz Haemmerle, past mayors, and others in the community to run for mayor. With that encouragement along with the skills she felt she had accumulated, she decided she needed to step up and move forward. She agreed to run if there weren’t any fires, floods, or earthquakes.
Perhaps she should have included pandemics! As COVID-19 falls on our local elected officials to see us through, Burke strives to get businesses and health care providers through the pandemic with support and compromise. All while trying not to damage family livelihoods and bring the community together.
As Burke looks forward to growth and opportunities within the city of Hailey, her experience helps her to recognize where we can expand, and how we do that while sustaining our natural resources. She feels we need to think about our environmental impact with everything we do as a city and county. We need to ask how can we convert our utilities to less carbon-based needs? She feels the community is very aware of these needs and appreciates that.
She feels the best things about this area are the basics- fishing, hiking, skiing, rock climbing, walking by the river, feeling the solitude and beauty. Burke wants Hailey to stay a family town, a strong community, she wants people to live here, enjoy it and value it.
As a member of the Hailey Urban Renewal Agency (HURA), Burke really wants better sidewalks, bike paths, and trees along the streets. Grants are coming for this type of improvement. She also feels strongly we continue to make Hailey pedestrian and bike-friendly and complete River st. with pathways and walkways, making it a really lovely place to work and live.
Burke also has her sights set on an opportunity out Croy Canyon where a recent land trade with the school district has allowed for a new snow storage site between the bridge and the new Mountain Humane building. She feels we have an opportunity to incorporate camping in that area that would allow for tents and eventually RV camping. Burke feels this would encourage people to stay in Hailey while traveling through.
Burke describes her ideal day as being outside, social distancing in the yard with friends, visiting her daughter, having a hot toddy, and getting take-out from local restaurants and putting her jammies on. Sounds like a perfect day for a very busy and appreciated Beaver!