A Transformational Leader
Nonprofit CEO • Pastor • Teacher • Entrepreneur • Mom
Kelly is CEO of the YWCA Southern Arizona, part of the oldest civil rights and social justice organization in the nation. She is a founding board member and teacher in the Eller Social Innovation program at the University of Arizona, and previously served as Asst. Professor of Leadership at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN. She led turnaround congregations as a Lutheran pastor and is known nationally as an author and public speaker. As owner and CEO of A Renewal Enterprise, Kelly offered strategic visioning and leadership training, helping hundreds of organizations and thousands of leaders across the U.S. and Canada learn to do what matters. During the 2012 election cycle, Kelly served as Executive Director of Arizona List, and helped 39 women get elected to state and local office. At the heart of everything she has ever done is this: People come first.
Kelly in her own words.
Early Life & Leadership
I was born in Hammond, Indiana, a gritty factory town on the outskirts of Chicago. Two of the greatest influences in my life, growing up, were my mom – who went to work in the high school cafeteria after my dad died and eventually opened her own small business – and my grandfather, a pipe fitter who fought for the right to organize. With help from one of the teachers in my public high school, I went to college on a scholarship and earned a BA in International Studies with a focus on economics and political science. I didn’t go to law school and then run for office, like I thought I would. Instead, between college and graduate school, I worked as a community organizer, group home & high school teacher, and even started my own muffin business. In 1989, I was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and led turnaround congregations in rural Illinois and in the Chicago suburbs. As Asst. Professor of Leadership at Luther Seminary, an author, and the founding partner & CEO of A Renewal Enterprise, a national consulting firm based in Chicago, I spent decades inspiring and leading others to do what matters in their communities.
Mission-Driven to Succeed
As the CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona, I’ve used my voice to champion economic, racial and social justice in the state. Since I started at the YWCA, we have had record-setting growth, increasing our operating budget and mission impact by 400%. We’ve acquired two nonprofit businesses, launched a cafe and catering company, added a new campus, and now welcome 50,000 visitors to our campuses each year. Our award-winning, bilingual workforce readiness education, leadership development and small business training programs serve more than 2,000 women annually. I could not be more proud of the talented, dedicated, diverse team I work with. Before coming to the YWCA, I worked as Executive Director of Arizona List (a state and local version of Emily’s List), helping elect pro-choice women to public office in Arizona and contributing to a 95% victory rate for 39 candidates during the 2012 primary election.
Entrepreneurial & Up For The Challenge
I like big challenges and I’m good at turning around what look like pretty hopeless situations. Maybe that can be explained by the fact that I’m a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan.
Like so many Arizonans, my wife Tana and I moved to Arizona to make a new life for ourselves. We owned A Renewal Enterprise together and started a small business, a little cheese and wine shop, in Tucson. I inherited this entrepreneurial spirit from my mom. It’s the way I’ve always approached everything, even my work in the ministry and as a nonprofit CEO.
We have three grown children between us and one granddaughter. We split our time between Tucson and our home in Bisbee, Arizona. We love this state for the way it has embraced us and we’re committed to doing everything we can to help make it a place where everyone can thrive. Let’s do this.