Kelly was born in Orange County, California, and likes to say that there is “ocean water running through her veins.” She has aspirations to one day live in a beach cottage where the soundtrack of waves will lull her to sleep. Now, she settles for the nightly digital beach sounds she streams on her white noise app from her phone, from land-locked Iowa.
She grew up relocating around the United States as her father took various employment positions across the county, spending time in Kansas, North Carolina, and the Philadelphia area in Pennsylvania. Her frequent moves created an appreciation for the unique assets each community had to offer and she frequently spent time exploring each town’s hidden treasures and culture.
After completing her Associate’s in Arts degree at Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania, she transferred to a small college in Iowa to study Theater & Speech at Northwestern College. Following graduation, she packed up all her belongings into her tiny sedan and drove to the big unknown of Chicago, Illinois. Without much of a plan, but a spirit of adventure and curiosity, she found herself living moment by moment – moving in with strangers, pursuing theater opportunities, and learning how to parallel park and drive in traffic.
She assimilated into big-city life while working as a cast member at Michigan Avenue’s flagship Disney Store, where her crowning achievement was playing Alladdin’s “Abu.” Immediately loved the diversity of the city’s amenities and culture and found herself exploring all the food, coffee, and music the Windy City had to offer. She also spent a lot of time on the sands of Lake Michigan, but it wasn’t quite as satisfying as the Pacific Ocean.
After several years, rising neighborhood violence and a maternal itch persuaded Kelly and her husband Andrew to relocate to establish roots in a “family-friendly” rural community. They returned to his hometown in rural Iowa where the population rarely reaches 1,000. While Kelly enjoys the town, she was surprised (and honestly disappointed) to realize that people do not ride horses to the post office but drive cars. She’s adjusted to rural-living over the last eleven years and has become passionate about making her small town the best it can be!
In her career, she primarily spent time working in the nonprofit sector, most recently supervising the Connection Center at Love INC of the Cedar Valley, an organization that shares physical resources with people in need while building relationships and support networks for each client. She believes in the power of listening to each person’s story, understanding their values, and approaching needs in a holistic way. Kelly brings this careful listening approach to placemaking, ensuring that community members feel heard and understood. She delights in the details of each person’s unique experience, skills, and desires, and knows that the best way to improve our communities is by working together.
Associates of Art, Montgomery County Community College
Theater & Speech, Northwestern College