PALM DESERT — Kathleen Kelly, first elected to the City Council in 2016, is one of four people seeking a four-year term to represent District 2 in the Nov. 3 election. Two of the four are incumbents, The other two are newcomers.

Until this year, the city voted for candidates at large, The city moved to district-base elections earlier following a lawsuit that Karina Quintanilla and Lorraine Salas filed.  The pair sued Palm Desert to end at-large voting and bring the city in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act with district-based voting.

Kelly, who describes herself as “69 years young,” said she is “blessed to still possess youthful energy now coupled with the wisdom that some life experience brings.”

Uken Report posed a series of questions to Kelly. They, along with her answers, follow.

Uken Report (UR): Occupation:  Currently, my activities as a Councilmember are my occupation. Prior occupations include:  attorney, law professor, ordained minister in the Episcopal Church, and conflict resolution consultant

UR: Why are you seeking re-election?

Kathleen Kelly: Residents have strongly encouraged me to continue serving as someone who reliably listens and takes action addressing their concerns. When I ran in 2016 and walked precincts, I heard concerns about short-term rentals. That issue was not yet in the press. I encouraged residents to organize and played a key role in fashioning a sensible response for Palm Desert. When development proposals have raised issues for neighbors, I have heard their concerns and prompted adjustments leading to approval of much better projects, serving all city interests.

UR: What qualities/strengths do you have that you opponents do not?

Kathleen Kelly: My opponents are all worthy people with good intentions. For 30 years, I served as a neutral party resolving all kinds of disputes including thorny public policy issues.  This experience enables me to listen well, sort through details, and find common ground.  The challenges posed by Covid-19 make my brand of unifying leadership more essential than ever.  I was elected by the councilmembers in our 6-city region to represent us at SCAG, a major planning organization impacting transportation and housing.  As this reflects, the regional respect I have built is an asset for Palm Desert.

UR: If re-elected, what are your goals?

Kathleen Kelly: Some goals are no-brainers and endorsed by all:  1) Growing our CSU campus, and 2) refreshing El Paseo with outdoor dining.   We need to re-visit our short-term rental ordinance to refine coverage.  I  am keen to spur more housing including affordable housing. Palm Desert is the employment capital of the Valley, and housing more Palm Desert workers here will cut commutes and be good for the environment. I am also keen to draw more diverse voices into city process, perhaps through neighborhood-specific forums, even if they have to be virtual.  Most importantly, I want to  create universal enthusiasm for virus safeguards that will keep all our residents safe and assure the confidence necessary for free commerce.

UR: Single biggest accomplishment during your tenure and why.

Kathleen Kelly: I have done my homework and voted my conscience on every issue with no ties to any special interest. I am pleased to have been an active participant in the process that convinced state consultants to stress the advantages of Palm Desert as a site for the next free-standing CSU campus.  I am also quite pleased to have led SunLine Transit as its Board Chairperson during development of a micro-grid for production of hydrogen fuel using solar energy.

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  • Kathleen Kelly: Kathleen Kelly