The mother of three is an incoming councilwoman on the Marietta City Council, and when she takes her seat replacing Councilman Jim King on Jan. 6, she’ll have her kids on her mind.
“What’s important to me is to make a better community for my kids,” Kelly said.
She says her civic involvement all started with her 13-year-old son when she began volunteering at his school. Kelly slowly got more involved in Marietta’s schools, serving two terms on a school governance team. Kelly then joined the citizens’ advisory committee for the 2009 parks and recreation bond passed by Marietta voters and was appointed to the board that governs the Marietta Housing Authority.
“It’s just been a litany of things,” Kelly said.
She praised her family for being her base of support.
“They’re excited to see Mommy active,” Kelly said.
A senior manager for Anheuser-Busch in Cartersville, Kelly moved to Marietta 17 years ago from Oxford, N.C.
“This is really my home now,” Kelly said.
Affordable housing a priority
Marietta has a lack of owner-occupied housing for working-class residents, Kelly said, and providing more affordable housing can be a catalyst to sustainable economic growth.
“I remember when I bought my first home,” Kelly said. “It was the best feeling in the world.”
She hopes to use the influence of City Council to encourage more private developers to build affordable homes in the city.
Many properties that were once federal housing projects are sitting empty, she said, and developers may look to the vision of the city before purchasing those vacant lots for development.
“I think that as a City Council, the governance group, we do have some type of influence in development and what we’d like to see go up,” Kelly said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said it took five minutes for him to know that appointing Kelly to the Marietta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners was the right choice.
She’s passionate about housing in the city, Tumlin said, and is the right person to direct the council toward potential housing developers that could build affordable homes.
“There’s some opportunities that we have to look for and it takes somebody like Michelle to make sure we look for those opportunities,” Tumlin said.
City Council’s influence on developers may be limited, Tumlin said, but there are places where zoning codes could be relaxed to help lure builders of affordable housing.
“I think you have to give the developer a chance where you can build smaller homes closer together,” Tumlin said.
Parks also of Kelly’s platform
One of Kelly’s platforms is executing the parks bond to its full potential.
She wants to see parks and recreation services in Marietta attract people from across the metro area.
“There’s no reason why we can’t have class A parks,” Kelly said.
The $25 million bond has financed $1 million in improvements to Laurel Park and another $1.6 million Custer Park, among other projects. Many of the projects funded by the bond have been completed, and city officials are pursuing the expansion of the 1940s-era Elizabeth Porter Recreation Center with a budget of $3.75 million.
“I think it’s important that we do what we said we were going to do,” Kelly said of the bond. Transparency leads to accountability, Kelly said, and she plans to have quarterly town hall meetings to hear from residents.
“It’s very tough for me to be a servant leader if I don’t know what the issues are,” Kelly said.
Low voter turnout is a problem in municipal elections, Kelly said, and she thinks engaging the community will inspire interest.
“It’s important for me that my area I’m representing, Ward 6, have a voice,” Kelly said.
She’s just a “good, solid citizen,” Tumlin said.
“I think she’ll probably be a leader in social-type issues,” Tumlin said. “I don’t know how to define that. I think she’ll look at the heart of the community instead of a guy like me that looks at numbers.”
The Michelle Cooper Kelly file:
Family: husband, Bill Kelly; three children ages 13, 11, 7
Education: Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety and Health, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; Master of Science in Occupational Safety and Health/Environmental Management, Columbia Southern University; Master of Business Administration, Columbia Southern University (pursuing)
Previous political experience: Marietta Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Parks bond citizens’ advisory committee, Marietta Schools Governance Team, Co-founder of the Cameron Park/Cameron Glen Neighborhood Watch Group, Democratic National Convention Delegate for the 11th Congressional District