Kristina Martin Majdisova works full-time as a clerk for the town, has a 17-month old son, and is running for office, an intense array of responsibilities that would make anyone want to lie down for a minute.
But wait, this week there’s more!
She’s in charge of organizing and deploying a pack of 10K volunteers; the folks who will unload the water bottles, set it all up, take it all down and clean it all up afterward. Even though the Shelter Island 10K is a much smaller event (restricted to 1,000 runners from about twice that number in past years) she’s not relaxing until it’s all over and everyone is safe and sound.
Kristina began organizing 10K volunteers for the Island’s signature event and major fund-raiser five years ago when somebody asked her to help. It’s called being “voluntold” and is one of many local traditions she embraced after moving here a decade ago from her home in Slovakia.
Although she doesn’t run the race (she’s way too busy on race day) she is an avid runner with three marathons under her belt, including Boston in 2017, and first place in the 2016 Shelter Island 5K. “I really wanted to contribute to the community and do my little part,” she said. “I felt very honored to be invited to participate.”
Kristina was born and raised right in the middle of Europe with a brother and two sisters, one of whom is Lydia Martinez Majdisova. In 2001, Lydia decide to apply for a work and travel program that allowed her to travel from Slovakia to the United States on a special visa.
There she met and married Pepe Martinez and the two of them began running STARs, the Island’s own coffee shop. Strategically located at the crossroads of Heights, and across from the post office, it is a popular and friendly gathering place.
The friendliness of STARs would prove to be a critical factor when Kristina started coming from Slovakia for the summer to work with Lydia and Pepe in 2006. One of the STARs regulars was Billy Martin McGayhey, and by the time Kristina returned in the summer of 2012, they were in love. “It was a turning point. I realized I had everything that I needed here. My friends, my family, my future husband. I went home and then came back with all my life in two suitcases on Dec. 12, 2012.”
Kristina had studied law in Slovakia, and completed her senior thesis on the United States Constitution, inspired in part by her father’s thwarted dreams of studying the law. “My dad wanted to be a lawyer, but in the socialist era, you didn’t just go to the law school. Your parents had to be situated. He went to trade school.”
After moving, Kristina worked at the Seven Bed and Breakfast for seven summers as property manager. In February of 2018 she began working part-time as a clerk for the Town and started working full time in January of this year.
She’s seen some positive changes in the way the Town conducts business in the wake of the pandemic. “On Shelter Island there was a big need to push digitalization forward. It was slowly happening, but it was clear to see who was ready and who was not.”
She does not see the acceptance of digital technology as necessarily age-dependent. “One of the committees I’m on, the members are all in their sixties, and seventies, but they were all set. They stepped up their game, they learned how to do it. There are so many younger people out there who are refusing to accept the technology even though everyone struggles with it at some point. Many older people are using the technology for their advantage.”
Kristina is running for Town Clerk as a Democrat, the first time in many years that Republican Dorothy Ogar will face competition for the office she has held since 1978. It started when the Democratic Chair, Heather Reylek invited Kristina to a preliminary interview with the Democratic committee that ran longer than she thought it would. “When they called me and said they would like me to run,” she said. “It was unexpected. In a really small community like this, an immigrant woman is asked to run for office. I was shocked and honored.”
Kristina said her legal studies left her with a pretty good idea of what is in the U.S. Constitution and what isn’t. “I think about the Constitution all the time,” she said. “Sometimes people say something is unconstitutional when it’s not.” She also says her legal training helps her reason. “It became a natural part of me, not just law, but argumentation. I don’t settle with the explanation that something just is.”
In 2019, a heavily-pregnant Kristina became a United States citizen just ahead of her son, Marcus Stephen Martin who was born a few weeks later. She was seated with the disabled would-be citizens in the first row. “That’s why I got to go first.”
Her parents were able to come meet their new grandson just before the pandemic made overseas family visits impossible. But aside from the considerable sacrifice of not seeing her Slovakian family, Kristina found that parenthood couldn’t have come at a better time. “We couldn’t socialize or see friends, and my husband lost his job, but it was a gift of time. Three months with this little person without interruption, learning and witnessing everything; when he rolled over, when he ate solids. For us, it flew by like nothing. We had it super sweet. We went for walks in Dering Harbor every day. I only used a mask once a week, going to the grocery store.”
And although she did not experience the disruptions of the pandemic as a crisis, she doesn’t really believe in crises. “I don’t have them. There are tougher moments, but I always have the mindset that this is not going to last forever. You might be uncomfortable with your job, you might have a difficult relationship, but it will get better, it will change, it will pass.”
In ten years of living here, Kristina’s roots have grown deep, but she can still appreciate Shelter Island from the outside, looking in. “It’s inspiring, the human factor, the sense of community here is something I’ve never experienced before. We don’t have it in Europe. People there help, but when people come together on Shelter Island, I’ve never seen anything like it. Regardless of political leanings.”
Lightning Round — Kristina Martin Majdisova
Favorite place on Shelter Island? Section 13, aka, Secret Beach. We had our first date and got married there.
Favorite place not on Shelter Island? My family’s mountain house in Slovakia.
When was the last time you were elated? When my son was born.
What exasperates you? Complaining.
When was the last time you were afraid? I was scared about how long the pandemic would last, and when our baby would see his family.
What is the best day of the year on Shelter Island? The 10K — after it’s over.
Favorite food? Cheese pizza.
Favorite person, living or dead, who is not a member of the family? Marcus Aurelius.
Most respected elected official? Barack Obama.