Kevin J. Martin 89

Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Kevin J. Martin ’89

It was during his time in Chapel Hill that Kevin Martin got his baptism in politics. As student body president and president of the North Carolina Association of Student Governments, Kevin learned a lot about what pulls at people’s hearts and minds.

Thus it was no surprise when, just 12 years removed from undergraduate study, he began serving a five-year term on the Federal Communications Commission.

He received a political science degree with honors and distinction. Kevin also has a  master’s in public policy from DukeUniversity and a law degree, cum laude, from Harvard. Without a doubt, he has had a good time explaining the thesis he wrote on “The Legal and Historical Development of NASCAR.”

Kevin joined the FCC from the White House, where he served as a special assistant for economic policy and was on the staff of the National Economic Council, focusing primarily on commerce and technology policy issues. He also served as the official U.S. representative to the G-8’s Digital Opportunity Task Force, a government, non-profit, and private sector group created to identify ways the digital revolution can assure opportunities for developing countries.

Prior to joining the Bush administration, Kevin was a principle technology and telecommunications advisor on the Bush-Cheney transition team, a role he assumed after serving as deputy general counsel to the Bush campaign in Austin. He was in Florida to help with the recount during the ballot dispute of November 2000.

Kevin also served in the office of independent counsel Kenneth Starr and has worked in private practice for a Washington law firm where he handled communications, legislative, and appellate litigation matters.

In addition to his duties as commissioner of the FCC, Kevin also chairs both the Federal-State Joint Board on Separations and the Federal-State Joint Conference on Advanced Telecommunications Services. He is a member of the Federal-State Joint board on Universal Service. He is a member of the Florida Bar, District of Columbia Bar, and the Federal Communications Bar Association.

At 37, Kevin is the youngest member of the five-member FCC board. He says one of the most pressing issues facing the commission is how to keep pace with a flurry of changes in the marketplace with deployment of new technologies, since communications today affects so many facets of our lives, including how we do things, how we learn, how we work and how we’re entertained.

“The deployment of new technology such as broadband, new wireless services and new media devices impact every aspect of our life and making sure that companies have the opportunity to invest in and deploy that new equipment to the public is critical,” Kevin says. “One of the challenges is how do you keep regulation in place to protect consumers while allowing companies to invest in new equipment that provides these kinds of new services.”

Ironically, one of his elders on the commission is also a UNC alumnus. Michael Copps ’67 says he enjoys having a fellow Tar Heel on the FCC and believes Kevin has a promising future. “This is usually a bipartisan place and we get along very well,” Michael says. “Kevin’s a really quick study, and I think everybody admires the way he throws himself into an issue by studying and analyzing it before he votes.”

Michael says Kevin made his mark as an influential commissioner, sometimes being an important swing vote on some of the issues. He’s learned that when you have a meeting of the minds with Kevin, you can count on him to stick with it.

Kevin has fond memories of Carolina, where he was Phi Beta Kappa, vice chair of the Honor Council, and the Chancellor’s Leadership Award recipient.

Student body president, he says, is “like being mayor of a small town, and you’re involved in all kinds of issues, from academics to parking and food service. In many ways, the campaign and being student body president were certainly good preparations for all kinds of issues you deal with in politics. In the end, in any political or government situation, you’re trying to determine the best policy, but the bottom line is you’re trying to address people issues.”

Some people have observed that Kevin is soft-spoken and reserved. They probably shouldn’t expect a lot of small talk from someone who has been on the move upward ever since he left Chapel Hill.

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