ISAIAH BRANCH-BOYLE/Durango Herald
Durango City Councilor Sweetie Marbury took on the mayor of Colorado’s largest city when she asked when Denver was going to do something about plastic bags.
“Today!” responded Denver Mayor Michael Hancock jokingly during a convention of the Colorado Municipal League this summer in Breckenridge, according to an account in the DenverWestword newspaper.
Durango got a double-barrel blast of Marbury moxie last week when she pushed for a ban on plastic bags at a City Council meeting and then later went to a meeting on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, where she confronted two audience members who were barraging the speaker with criticisms about the law.
When Marbury reminded the critics that the purpose of the hearing was for “information, not debate,” she was awarded with applause.
Proof that Marbury is not afraid to take a controversial position can be seen in her stand in favor of banning plastic bags, a measure opposed by 112 members of the Durango Chamber of Commerce while 83 members support it, said Jack Llewellyn, executive director of the chamber, who polled members last week.
Opponents made comments to Llewellyn such as, “We have other things to worry about” and “Government should stay out of our lives.”
A Texas native with a bartender brother named Bubba, Marbury is like a character from a gritty Dixie Chicks song who is not ready to back down.
“You can’t scare me, I’m a teacher” is a bumper sticker on her refrigerator.
When running for office, an opponent stole her campaign signs. In the middle of winter, the high school drama teacher replanted new signs in frozen ground.
Because she got the second-most votes in the city election in 2011, Marbury will be “Mayor Sweetie” in about two years if city councilors stick to their protocol for rotating the mayor’s gavel.
She lives with a German shepherd named Leo in a cozy West Second Avenue bungalow built in 1907. There’s no grass in the front yard. Instead, it’s completely covered with flowers, modeled after the landscaping at Anne Hathaway’s cottage in England.
Marbury also planted hydrangeas after seeing them at James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia. She collects antique milk-glass dishes and subscribes to the New Yorker magazine.
This March, Marbury vacationed in Maui, wearing a Hawaiian shirt to a City Council meeting upon her return.
She considers herself an introvert who is just very passionate, but her little sister, Debbie Norris, however, calls Sweetie “opinionated and hard-headed.”
Some Marbury indignation flared at the annual board meeting of the La Plata Electric Association in May when Marbury spoke out against an increase in the base rate, which has infuriated conservationists because it’s an increase not based on energy consumption.
During the meeting at the Sky Ute Casino and Resort, Marbury, 65, spoke up for all seniors in the conference hall living on “fixed incomes.”
Marbuy said she is now living on a fixed income, too, since she retired from a teaching job in New Mexico this spring. She made her decision the same week as her friend and Durango School District 9-R board member, Carla Ann Mulkey, died unexpectedly from a heart condition.
The teaching job in Kirtland, N.M., followed an earlier retirement from teaching theater at Montezuma-Cortez High School for 25 years. A lover of musicals such as “Guys and Dolls,” Marbury was inducted into the Colorado Thespians Hall of Fame.
Marbury considers it a privilege to live in Colorado. She said she is a typical tourist who came here on vacation and ended up staying. She has one son, Dru English, a local bartender.
Because her dad told her she had to be tough “to live in the West,” she feels sometimes she stayed here to spite him. Her father, Mack Marbury, nicknamed her “Sweetie” before she was born and the name stuck, even though her legal name is Anita. If someone called her house and asked for Anita, she would not answer to it, she said.
Marbury said her winter sport is “shoveling snow,” often getting on the roof. She once comforted an elderly man in a car wreck for 45 minutes until help could arrive on the mountain road to Cortez.
Marbury got her start in city politics in the late 1980s when she protested a city plan to sell Brookside Park as a location for a Wendy’s restaurant. She kept going to city meetings, speaking out in favor of medical marijuana and nagging the city to expand its recycling.
As an environmentalist, she respects how all life is inner-connected. She realized it’s a very small world during a vacation in Paris. At a sidewalk cafe, she struck up a conversation with another American tourist, who turned out to be from Ouray.
As the daughter of Depression-era parents, she does not like to waste anything. She fixed a 1950 International pickup that she found for sale for $3,000 on the side of the road in New Mexico.
She uses it to haul mulch. If Marbury ever has a granddaughter, she is going to give it to her.
“Every girl needs a truck,” she said.