Smith: A tidy way to honor Ken Martin

Had Ken Martin gone really bad after he was kicked out of Analy High School, he would no doubt have been good at it.|

Had Ken Martin gone really bad after he was kicked out of Analy High School, he would no doubt have been good at it.

“He’s certainly very, very bright,” said friend Connie Codding. The widow of King of Sonoma County builders Hugh Codding feels certain that had Martin transitioned from a tough-fisted and adrift “free agent” of a teen about 60 years ago to a professional crook, he’d now be infamous.

But the faith and mentoring of others helped young Ken Martin alter the trajectory of his life. While a student at SRJC and Sonoma State, he opened his own janitorial service.

HE SCRUBBED TOILETS and mopped floors at Santa Rosa City Hall and all over town. With the help of his wife, Donna, he saved money and, emulating Hugh Codding, he built and sold a duplex.

Sensing opportunity in the rental market, Martin founded Pine Creek Properties . He constructed small and then large and then larger apartment buildings, and some commercial buildings.

He’s done extraordinarily well. His family business now rents about 1,000 apartments. Noted son Bret Martin, “He owns a lot of the buildings he used to clean.”

Not the sort of guy who requires or desires a lot of attention, Ken Martin has quietly donated to all manner of endeavors to give a hand to local people in need. One of his family’s recent gifts was its largest.

Martin gave $250,000 to the project to transform Santa Rosa’s former Warrack Hospital into the Social Advocates for Youth Dream Center, which will provide affordable housing to young people working to move their lives off the streets and onto a constructive path.

And Martin has pledged another $250,000 as a challenge grant to boost SAY’s effort to attract the additional dollars needed for the construction project. The organization has raised about $6.5 million and seeks about another $1.8 million.

TO HONOR AND THANK Martin, SAY could name a Dream Center wing for him.

Instead there will be a dedication in his name of one of the residential and service center’s janitorial closets.

Martin loves the idea, as do his son and Connie Codding, fellow supporters of the ambitious SAY project.

Codding envisions the Ken Martin Janitorial Closet as “a humble thing” that will say to the young people fresh from the streets, “I was you.”

Bret Martin believes that for center residents to see that a major benefactor started out as a kid in trouble and worked his way up from a custodian will demonstrate “what really can happen.”

At SAY, chief Matt Martin, no known relation, said plans for the Dream Center include several janitorial closets.

“Mr. Martin will have his choice.”

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

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