On Thursday night at the Milbrook Club, Joe Kelly, a Republican, who familiar in Town as the coach of Greenwich High School’s 11-time champion Rugby team, announced his intention to run for Selectman.
In attendance were First Selectman, Republican Peter Tesei, who is not running for a seventh term, State Rep Fred Camillo (R-151) who recently announced he seeks Tesei’s position, and Town Clerk Carmella Budkins.
The Greenwich Board of Selectmen is comprised of three people, with one serving as First Selectman, a paid full time position akin to mayor, and two selectmen.
The Republican Selectman John Toner has also declined to run for another term. That is the job Mr. Kelly seeks.
The Democratic Selectman Sandy Livtack accepted the position in 2017 after running for First Selectman and coming close, but not defeating Mr. Tesei. Mr. Litvack, who received 6,578 votes to Mr. Tesei’s 7,569 votes – a difference of 991 votes, has yet to announce whether he will run again.
“This is my wife Jill of 30 years. This position that I’m asking the Town to vote me into, is a position that will be held by two people. You’re not just getting one, you’re getting two.” – Joe Kelly, Republican candidate for Greenwich Selectman
To date, only Republicans have announced their candidacies for the November 2019 municipal election. Both Fred Camillo and Mike Mason have thrown their hats into the ring for First Selectman. In July the RTC will endorse either Camillo or Mason. The candidate not selected has the option of petitioning to force a primary.
Last week Granit Balidemaj, a former RTM member, announced his candidacy for Selectman.
Thursday night’s theme for Mr. Kelly was energy, passion and public-private partnerships.
State Rep Fred Camillo, who is running for First Selectman, praised Mr. Kelly, saying, “I remember 2016 primaries when Donald Trump labeled another candidate ‘low energy.’ You’re not Low Energy Joe!”
Camillo said he first met Kelly back in 1998. “Joe is the same wonderful Irish-Catholic kid from Queens, New York. He was never given anything. He’s succeeded in business, succeeded in coaching, and even entered into the NY State Golden Gloves in the heavy weight division and won in a knock-out! …He’s a great guy.”
Zane Khader, a GHS varsity rugby team member who is serving as Mr. Kelly’s social media coordinator, introduced the candidate.
Zane, who is also the junior class president at GHS and president elect of the student body, spoke about what he sees as a lack of passion among his peers. “I recently spoke about homecoming at the Board of Education meeting, and felt little to no energy surrounding me.”
“I have no doubt that the RTM, and various board meetings could be characterized in a similar way,” he continued.
“But Coach Kelly has passion and energy to spare. I can’t imagine him at a Board of Education meeting and sitting there passively,” he added before introducing Mr. Kelly.
“I have access to the young people and recruited one of the young people to get our message forward,” Mr. Kelly said of Zane.
“This position that I’m asking the Town to vote me into, is a position that will be held by two people,” Mr. Kelly said of himself and his wife of 30 years. “You’re not just getting one, you’re getting two.”
Jill Kelly described her husband as the rock of her family and the boys on the rugby team. “He is a solid citizen, a protector and a leader,” she continued, adding that her husband will be an asset to the Town and a great decision maker.
Mrs. Kelly, a realtor at Sotheby’s, talked about how meaningful her volunteer job was as Julian Curtiss School PTA president from 2002-2004. “It is a perfect example of what we have in Greenwich – socioeconomic diversity,” she said, adding, “Everyone should have a voice.”
Mr. Kelly lamented the closure of the bleachers at Cardinal Field. “Other schools come and see plywood,” he said referring to the wood blocking access to the bleachers. “We have to make a premiere stadium.”
He said Greenwich is addressing its challenges too slowly.
“Greenwich has a unique opportunity to take those that have, and those who have-not and work together to solve Greenwich’s problems,” he said.
As Selectman, Kelly said he’d like to set up a “town center” where residents could get together and exchange ideas and concepts.
Kelly said he grew up in Queens in a family with little money. While attending Iona College, he said he worked as a bartender and odd jobs to pay for school. After college he took an entry level job on Wall Street.
“I found myself in a bond brokerage firm in the training program,” he recalled. “I heard them say they needed to open an office in Tokyo but nobody wanted to go because they were making so much money. I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ Two weeks later I was on a plane to Tokyo. We had to chase up clients, set up communications, an office, deal with the Ministry of Finance. We had to learn these things on the hop. There was no book to follow. We built a business.”
Next, Kelly said he was sent to London after a restructuring at his firm. “I said, ‘I’m happy to help you with the restructuring.’ Then they gave me a bunch of big clients and I started making money for the first time. Getting bonuses, getting the big clients. It was very exciting. But it wasn’t enough for me.”
Kelly said he was given an opportunity to open an office in London for a different company. “We stayed there one year. We went from 6 people to 100 people, then 200, then 250 people,” he recalled. “I was no longer just the deal doing guy, I inspired people to work harder and do things for themselves. There was financial motivation. …I lived and loved the trading floor environment.”
“After a 20 year career, I reached some financial goals and working on Wall Street was behind me. We decided to move somewhere. We could pick anywhere in the world. Jill said, ‘House, Greenwich. Near the water.’ We could have moved anywhere we wanted. As long as Jill is happy, the family is happy.”
Mr. Kelly said that after his 20-year Wall Street career was behind him he got to spend more time with his children. “I gave Jill the tag team slap and let her get involved with the PTA and she became the PTA president and decided to have a career,” he said. “She likes seeing the houses and interacting with the people. I liked staying home, but then I coached everything from girls soccer to basketball… you name it, I coached it.”
Mr. Kelly also joined the Amogerone Volunteer Fire Company, the Mead Point Association and the Windrose Way Association.
“I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I’ve flipped a dozen homes. I’ve owned a window company in Massachusetts, a gas station in Brooklyn, three different pizza places, an olive factory in Morocco… When I went to all these businesses, what I did was not just put money into the business, but crawled into the businesses.”
“We built a 20,000 square foot house on Midwood that we bought out of bankruptcy. I had the sledgehammer and was breaking rocks and wanted to see how you do the masonry. It was tons of fun to me.”
These days Kelly said he is CEO of Uranium Markets a brokerage for nuclear fuels he founded ten years ago. The company’s website lists Kelly’s daughter Brittani as “Operations.”
“I also own a real estate development firm in Greenwich with offices in London and New York and am working on a 12-unit subdivision I’m going to build in Groton, Connecticut.”
In his conclusion, Kelly returned to the idea of creating public-private partnerships to fund projects.
“They talk about how they want to tax the wealthy more. Let’s put them to the challenge and prove it doesn’t have to be Bernie Sanders Socialism to get things accomplished. Let’s prove we can work together with those who have and those who have-not to fix things,” he said.
“Ray Dalio says capitalism is broken. Let’s be an example of how we can work together and fix it. Capitalism works. Socialism is not the route forward. Capitalism works and what better Town to lead than Greenwich?” he said.