By Seth Daniel
Long-time Southender and current Bay Village resident Mike Kelley drew a packed house at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in his kick-off Thursday night, March 30, for the vacated District 2 City Council seat.
With children running through the hall, Salsa music playing and adults of every age gathered to welcome the campaign season for the Kelley camp, Kelley announced his intentions to run for the seat vacated by South Boston’s Bill LInehan – a seat that has been dominated by Southie for decades but could potentially find a host across the Fourth Street Bridge in the South End.
“My name is Michael Kelley and I’m a candidate for Boston City Council District 2,” he said in his address to the crowd, drawing loud applause. “For some of you it’s a surprise. For a lot of you, it’s like ‘What took you so long?’”
Kelley harped upon his experience as a small business owner, coming from a big family with several businesses in Revere, and his long-time work in former Mayor Tom Menino’s Administration. Noting he was the neighborhood coordinator for the South End and Bay Village under Menino, and the liaison to the LGBTQ community, he said he is the one person with extensive experience who knows how to get things done.
“Many of you know I was fortunate to have (pause) worked for probably the best mayor the City’s ever had,” he said, fighting back a bit of emotion. “Mayor Menino took a chance on me and it’s why I’m here right now. During my years working for Mayor Menino, I learned one major thing, and that’s one person can make a difference. One person steps up and doing the right things can change people’s lives…These are experiences we need someone at City Hall to have right now, who can hit the ground running and knows how to get things done and cares about people.”
He also touched on the fact that the district is very different, covering the South End, Chinatown, Bay Village, Downtown and South Boston. Before announcing, Kelley had made the rounds like fewer other candidates have yet done, appearing at scores of events since last fall. He said as different as the district seems, it’s not as different as one might expect.
“If you step back and look at the neighborhoods of this district, you might think they have absolutely nothing in common,” he said. “After traveling this district though over the last couple of months and talking with people, I can tell you there is more in common and more that unites us if we’d only try. I’m going to be the one to work hard to be the person to unite these neighborhoods…They care about bringing opportunity for themselves and their neighbors and the young people in this neighborhood and this city. They care about creating good schools for every single kid in this city so that every single kid and their parents don’t have to worry about getting into a ‘good’ school or a ‘bad’ school. Every schools should be a good school in this city.”
He did take one prominent stand, however, against the actions of parade organizers at the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade, who once again tried to bar a gay veterans group from marching in the Parade.
“All of us care about protecting the civil rights of everyone that have come under threat since last November’s election,” he said. “Washington is crazy and it’s not just what happened a few months ago, it’s every day since. You don’t have to look far because you can look at what happened in this city. Look what happened at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, again. Right? Thank God some people stepped in and are working on a solution. I did not march this year. I took a stand that we need to have permanent change and a permanent change to the people that are leading that march. As someone who wants to be a city councilor I cannot possibly march in a parade that excludes anyone and I never will.”
That drew lots of applause in very diverse room of people.
But Kelley stressed that his candidacy would be about making people the number one priority.
He said it’s something he was taught as a kid growing up in public housing in Revere. His parents, he said, worked several jobs to be able to afford to buy a few businesses, which helped the family establish a tradition of entrepreneurship that his family still in Revere maintain.
He related that his father would always ask him if there were kids at school who were off alone, who didn’t take to anyone. If there were, his dad would tell him to make a point of going to talk to those kids. At dinner that night, he would follow up asking if Kelley had talked to the kids who were outcast.
That, he said, was just one of many similar values he took with him to Boston City Hall and to the business he started afterward.
Those values would be something he planned to take to the City Council, if elected.
“I want to unite this district,” he said. “Every single person in every neighborhood will feel valued and represented in this City. I will do that as a city councilor…People have asked about a platform, and I’ve talked about that a little tonight. The number one thing in my platform, though, is putting people first.”
Some of his newest supporters agreed that he would do just that.
“We moved to the South End from London and didn’t know anyone,” said Rekha Purwaha. “Mike and his friends really brought us into the community and made us feel welcome. We really became part of the community because of Mike.”