OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The OKC City Council’s Chief Staff was awarded a high honor from the U.S. Navy.

Photo goes with story
Debi Martin, image courtesy of the City of OKC

The Navy awarded Debi Martin the Meritorious Service Award, the highest honor the National Office of the U.S. Navy League can award a civilian.

Martin received the honor during the inactivation ceremony for the USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., on May 20.

Martin was the submarine’s primary Oklahoma City liaison for 28 years, meticulously planning tours to Oklahoma City for the USS Oklahoma City’s sailors and officers, and arranging for City Councilmembers to visit the sub for nearly three decades, according to a City of Oklahoma City news release.

She brought together survivors and sailors from the submarine to help the community heal and forge a lasting bond during times of crisis. She was a friend to many of the ship’s 18 commanders during her time with the boat, city officials said.

“It’s rare for the President/CEO along with the Dean for the Center for Maritime Strategy for the national Navy League of the United States to travel from Washington D.C. to attend a ship’s decommissioning ceremony and more over present the organization’s Meritorious Service Award to a civilian,” said retired rear admiral and former Under Secretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic. “Debi Martin spent countless hours of work supporting the crew of Oklahoma City’s namesake submarine was recognized recently by NLUS. All Oklahomans should be extremely proud of Debi’s dedication over the years representing our City with the U.S. Navy.”

Martin has been a city employee for going on 50 years.

She has been a reliable educator and resource for incoming mayors, City Council members and City executives since being named City Council Chief of Staff in 1990, city officials said.

Martin was the city liaison who assisted with relocating the Oklahoma City Museum of Art downtown. She frequently met with families who lost children in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, and was named co-chair of the First Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony. She formed the First Tee youth golf program to help adolescents develop life skills, character and health that help empower them for the rest of their life. She helped lead the Youth Council with Leadership Oklahoma City since 2002, managed the Reading Buddies program for public school children and enlisted more than 100 City employees as mentors. 

Heather Foster, an Oklahoma City resident, was also honored during the ceremony for designing the USS Oklahoma City’s badge when she was 14 years old.