Mike Kelley’s story is probably a lot like many of yours. Mike was born and raised in a working-class family in Boston’s neighboring Revere. During the early years, his family lived in public housing and he, his brothers and twin sister attended public schools. Their backyard was the streets of a close-knit neighborhood full of kids. “Busy days didn’t end until the street lights came on and every kid belonged to every parent. We all took care of each other.”
Mike’s dad, Bob, who passed away last year, worked full time cleaning airplanes for USAir and for many years he worked a second job tending bar at night. Mike’s mom, Sissy, was the force that drove the entire family and that hasn’t changed to this day. Like most of the neighborhood, the Kelley’s had their share of financial struggles. But Mike’s parents did a good job protecting the kids, so naturally, they thought their lives were perfect.
During elementary school, Mike’s parents and other family members bought a local bar in Revere and then later, another in a neighboring city. Mike’s parents set his first example as he watched them both work tirelessly and sacrifice a lot to make their business successful in order to make their kids’ lives better. From an early age, Mike shared that entrepreneurial spirit and learned the value of hard work. In the summers, he mowed lawns and in the winters, shoveled snow to make a little money. “Although, it wasn’t the most profitable business model since very often Mom would worry about the neighbor and suggest that I not take their money.”
At 14, Mike pleaded with the manager of a local hot dog stand to hire him even though he was underage. After weeks of showing up and repeatedly asking for a chance, Mike made a last pitch and offered to work a week for free. The manager agreed and by day two, Mike was on the payroll with as many hours as he could handle. Within weeks, Mike had his own key and was opening on his own.
When Mike was about 17, he took out a monthly lease on a limo with his brothers and started “Boulevard Limo Service.” They built up a pretty good business providing chauffeured limo services to individuals, businesses and a local funeral parlor. Mike loved driving and providing a top-notch service and experience to people, often to folks who rarely had such luxury. It was a family business in a family that got people so they struggled when times were slow and often gave up shifts to one of their employees who needed the work.
Eager to make his own way, Mike moved out of the house at 18, when he went to work on the “ramp” for Northwest Airlines loading luggage as a member of International Association of Machinists (IAM) for almost 10 years. There Mike learned first-hand the value of organized labor and really started to see how important it was to be politically active. That job taught Mike what it is like to work for a decent wage, to have the benefit of some financial security and to be treated fairly.
While still working at NWA, Mike applied and was accepted to the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) first Youth College for Campaign Training. He worked on Democratic campaigns, including President Bill Clinton’s Whistle Stop Tour in Royal Oak Michigan, before returning to work at NWA. That opportunity changed Mike’s life forever, igniting a passion for politics and action.
For almost 10 years, Mike Kelley worked directly for Boston Mayor Menino. He started out as the Mayor’s South End and Bay Village Neighborhood Coordinator and as the Mayor’s Liaison to the LGBT Community. Working and fighting on behalf of the people in the district and across the city was one of the most rewarding experiences of Mike’s life. It was during that time that Mike knew he had found his calling. Mike was an active part of improving the quality of life for the residents of this city and loved every minute of it.
Mike will tell you that in 2006 he felt like the luckiest guy in the world when the law changed and he was allowed to legally marry the love of his life, Ricardo Rodriguez. They are fortunate to have always had the love and support of their family and friends. Together they always have been committed to giving back to the community. They show their community pride by supporting community organizations like Youth Design, an organization that is opening career pathways for talented urban youth.
Now Mike Kelley is working hard with his growing community of supporters to become District 2’s next City Councilor so that he can work on what he loves most — Putting People First!