Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley presided over his final meeting at City Hall Monday night. In closing remarks, he expressed gratitude to his colleagues and love for his family and stressed the "awesome responsibility" of political leadership.
"I leave tonight with absolutely no regrets," Kelley said, concluding a meeting that included passage of dozens of individual pieces of legislation and ceremonial farewells to and from outgoing council members Tony Brancatelli, (who was absent), Basheer Jones, Delores Gray and Marion Anita Gardner.
Kelley's speech was filled with warmth and encouragement. He celebrated the successes of his colleagues and urged them to march boldly forward in the face of public criticism.
"Most people do not know how hard your jobs are," he said. "It is a hard job. It is a calling. It is something that you do for the love of Cleveland, something you do because you were called to do this."
Speaking from personal experience, Kelley said that no matter how hard he'd worked and no matter how much he anguished over individual votes, at least 25% of his constituents believed he made the wrong decision. Dealing with criticism, though, is what council members sign up for, he said.
"Please never lose sight of the awesome responsibility that being a member of this body is," he said. "When you look around at the grandeur of of these chambers, the beauty of this building — that is symbolic of the awesomeness that you take on with every vote."
Kelley said that the votes he was proudest of were those for which he was most viciously attacked, and reminded council that "doing what's right is not always popular; it's not always trending on Twitter."
Kelley bestowed a parting gift on Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin, who will succeed him as council president in 2022: a large gavel. (A little gavel simply wouldn't do for "Big Griff," Kelley joked.)
Kelley's departure stands in stark contrast to his predecessor Martin Sweeney, eight years ago. Sweeney used his final speech to unleash on council opponents
who'd sparred with him during a controversial redistricting process. He then escaped through a door behind the podium and hid there.
Kelley has represented the Old Brooklyn neighborhood on City Council since he was first appointed by Mike O'Malley in 2005. He has served as President of the body since 2014. He unsuccessfully ran for Cleveland mayor in 2021, placing second in the September primary and ultimately losing to Justin Bibb in the November general.
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