Great Falls Mayor Candidate Profile: Bob Kelly

Editors note: This is the first of two profiles featuring candidates running for Mayor of Great Falls.

I am currently serving my 9th year in City Government in Great Falls. I was a City Commissioner for three years and am now in my sixth year as Mayor. My professional career was in municipal finance. I was a municipal bond trader and underwriter for more than 20 years before retiring in 2008 from  DA Davidson as a  Managing Director, Senior Vice President. I then served for nearly 2 years as Vice President of Sports Competition for Special Olympics Montana.

I have 2 grown children, both products of Great Falls Public Schools. My wife Sheila works full time and is active with River’s Edge Trail Foundation and KEY.

I hope to continue as Mayor as our community manages growth and works to solve some of its most challenging issues. Great Falls is beginning to ride a wave of success that has been mounting for several years. Our wages are up. Our downtown is alive with activity brought about by young (and not-so-young) entrepreneurs. We now have the resources to maintain and improve our parks, and we recently won a highly competitive grant to build a new Aquatic and Recreation Center. The Civic Center repair and renovation is underway – with no increase in taxes! The amount of new construction around town bears witness to the potential that builders, new businesses and current employers see in Great Falls.

Early in the pandemic, my role as Mayor was one of facilitator. Relying on my relationships with various networks of caring citizens in this amazing community, I connected people, agencies and services to address unprecedented needs.  Our gradual exit from the pandemic has created a new, welcome challenge: allocating substantial COVID-relief funding. My professional career and six years’ experience as Mayor give me an important perspective on how to maximize the impact of these funds for projects that are substantive, sustainable and transformational. Public Safety and First Responders can finally add assets they sorely need and currently lack. Funding affordable housing and workforce development can help Great Falls attract the good jobs and employment sectors every community is competing for. Long overdue capital projects can finally get underway with funds made available through the American Rescue Plan.

I also hope to continue my work with groups throughout the city to tackle some thorny challenges we still face. Our crime rates, domestic partner abuse and the consequent suffering of children cry out for better solutions. After a pandemic-induced delay, the community conversation on violent crime has intensified, with the new Crime Task Force seeking tangible, effective remedies and responses. The problem of drugs in Great Falls needs constant, vigilant attention. Meanwhile, the challenge to economic growth caused by the growing need for affordable housing and childcare needs immediate attention.

We’re working with builders around town to help them “get to yes” so we can all benefit from their vision and risk-taking. Streamlining and implementing best practices in our Planning and Community Development  Department is in progress, a direct result of City collaboration with the building trades.

Finally, I’m running for Mayor again because I truly enjoy the job. As Mayor I’m committed to being out in the community, listening, learning, and thanking the people who make this a great place to live.  It’s a privilege to represent Great Falls to visiting groups, to say “thank you” to local organizations that often go unrecognized for all they do, and to tell the story of this city’s greatest strength – a social fabric of concern, generosity and appreciation for our neighbors, institutions and beautiful setting on the banks of the Mighty Mo’. I’d appreciate your vote.

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