By Lynn Burton
Sopris Sun Staff Writer
When Marty Silverstein moved to the Roaring Fork Valley from New York area in 1990, there were no opportunities for him to do the kind of computer consulting he’d done back East.
“The closest place was Denver,” Silverstein told The Sopris Sun, and he wanted to live in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Part of the rest of the story is one that’s been told up and down the Roaring Fork Valley for decades. Armed with a BS in political science and a minor in business administration, he eventually landed a job paying $7 an hour (plus a ski pass) at the Aspen airport.
“It wasn’t easy finding a job in Aspen in 1990, especially if you didn’t have a car … and a lot of employers thought you were a short timer,” he recalled.
At the same time, Silverstein was fortunate to land a job taking care of the Patio Building in exchange for a place to stay. “That’s how I survived.”
In 1994, a friend told him the Aspen post office was giving one of its periodic tests for employment. “I scored well … it was a stable job that paid $13 an hour with benefits … it was a good opportunity.”
Today, 22 years later, Silverstein is a Carbondale Trustee and probably the most outgoing, friendly and helpful Carbondale post office window worker the town has seen in a long time. He’s lived in a Carbondale townhouse with his wife, Kathy Webb, for 17 years, and during that time was joined by two cats: Care Matt (named after Avalanche hockey player Matt Duchene) and Mickey (in honor of his later brother).
Silverstein, 65, grew up in the Bronx, New York, in the Mosholu Parkway neighborhood where the ethnic mix was about one-third Jewish, one-third Irish and one-third Italian. His high schools (JHS 80 and DeWitt Clinton) were about one-third Anglo, one-third Latino (primarily Puerto Rican) and one-third African American.
“Growing up in a mixed bag of nationalities, religions and ethnic groups, has given me an appreciation and tolerance for other peoples’ backgrounds,” he said. “It has also taught me that there are good and not so good people in all groups of people.”
Silverstein’s grandparents on his father’s side immigrated to the United States from Russia (probably between 1900-1910). His mother’s parents emigrated to the U.S. from Austria/Hungary at about the same time. “They were part of the great Jewish migration from Eastern Europe from 1900 to 1920. My father grew up on the lower East Side and my mom grew up in Brooklyn.”
Silverstein’s father graduated from the City University of New York (CUNY). His mother attended CUNY but did not graduate, and later worked for shirt-retailer A. Sulka. His father started working as an office manager at a direct-mail company, and worked his way up to president of U.S. operations. His parents, especially his mother, were union activists and labor organizers. “Back then, they’d be called socialists or communists … today they’d be called progressives.”
After college, Silverstein moved back to New York City, drove a taxi and attended an intensive program in IBM 360/370 programming and system analysis at New York University. He received a certificate from NYU upon completion of the program.
After NYU, he entered the workforce doing computer programming at Teacher’s Insurance and Chubb Insurance, then began a career as a computer consultant. Client companies he worked for included: AT&T, Merrill Lynch, Consolidated Edison, Perkin Elmer and Cordis Corp.
Silverstein had actually visited a cousin on Missouri Heights twice since 1986 before moving to the Roaring Fork Valley permanently in 1990.
“I ultimately moved here because my first wife had died and I was stuck in a funk and decided I needed a change,” he said. “My cousin generously offered me a room here when I came.”
Impressions of those early visits to his cousin include standing outside in the snow at Thanksgiving wearing a T-shirt, and a dip in the Hot Springs pool in Glenwood Springs with snow blowing in his face.
When Silverstein was growing up, his family (especially his father) taught him and his sister that there is always someone worse off than they, and they should help out in any way they can. Silverstein said he and his wife, together and separately, volunteer their time to nonprofits and good causes dozens of times a year. “Without Kathy’s help, I couldn’t do the things I do.” Some events, such as the annual Cowboy Up, see Marty and Kathy working together. “We’re a team.” They also make regular financial donations to local nonprofits and causes.
Silverstein is a member of the Sons of American Legion Post 100 “ … as my dad belonged to the greatest generation, fighting in World War II.”
He and Steve’s Guitars owner Steve Standiford also organize and help run the annual summer music series in Sopris Park.
After serving on the Carbondale Parks & Recreation Committee for several years, Silverstein ran for a trustee seat in April 2016.
“I ran because I wanted to have some say in Carbondale’s future,” he said. “Some peoples’ legacy is their children. We are not blessed with kids but my legacy can be that I helped Carbondale stay the funky eclectic mix that we have today. I love that Carbondale is an inclusive place. We have old miners, old hippies, professionals, artists and artisans, retirees and young families … every age and economic group you can imagine.”
Two of Silverstein’s main concerns are recruiting more bilingual police officers, and what he calls “the 800- pound gorilla” – City Market, which still hasn’t announced when it plans to build a big, modern store on Highway 133.
“It’s our largest sales tax generator… If it ever left town, we’d have serious issues.”
Silverstein isn’t shy about his support for a Highway 133 development proposal for a City Market and other uses several years ago, which voters ultimately shot down.
“He (the developer) did everything we wanted.”
The seven-member Carbondale Board of Trustees tilts heavily toward environmental protections and energy-related sustainability. Silverstein said he’s not a “tree hugger” but the environment and sustainability are important issues for the board of trustees.
“ … if you like to fish, hunt, play golf, breathe clean air and drink clean water … This is our only planet.”
When Silverstein started at the Carbondale post office seven years ago, he and his fellow workers started putting out suckers for the kids. One reason was to help teach kids to say “thank you.”
When this reporter noted that Silverstein seems to enjoy greeting customers and working the Carbondale post office window, he paused and then replied, “We’re very customer service oriented. ‘Service’ is part of our name. We fix problems … there’s some satisfaction in that.”
Q: Your birthday
A: Jan. 24, 1952
Q: Your favorite professional sports teams?
A: Hockey: Colorado Avalanche and New York Rangers
Q: What was the first record you ever bought?
A: A Roy Rogers and Dale Evans 45. I was six or seven.
Q: What was the first car you bought?
A: A 1957 Chevy Bel Air.
Q: What is your favorite month?
Q: What is your favorite local pizza?