Outgoing Mayor Chris Kelly Says He Has No Regrets, Offers Advice For Successor

12-8-15 Meeting19

Mayor Chris Kelly at his final Township Council meeting as mayor.

Outgoing Mayor Chris Kelly has some advice for the man who’s going to be filling the seat come Jan. 1, 2016.

Well, actually, he has a lot of advice.

“Dealing with (Township) Council is kind of like herding cats,” Kelly said. “Trying to get everybody together on the same page is nearly impossible, so don’t go into it thinking you will have consensus on everything.”

The fact that the 2016 and 2017 mayor and council will be all Democrats probably won’t change that, Kelly said.

“There are nine different opinions on every topic,” he said. “But he’s been there long enough, I think he knows that.”

Kelly, a Republican, was appointed to the seat in January, 2015 after the resignation of former Mayor Brian Levine, who is now a Somerset County Freeholder. On New Year’s Day 2016, Democrat Phillip Kramer – now a Councilman representing Ward 3 –  takes the oath for the start of his four-year term.

Kelly said that although his year in office was a “roller coaster,” he’s glad that he submitted his name for consideration.

“It was definitely a great experience,” Kelly said. “I would definitely not change throwing my hat in the ring.”

One of the highlights of his term, Kelly said, was performing marriages.

“I think I performed 68 or 69 weddings over the year,” he said. “Getting to meet all of those couples was one of the highlights. Being able to be involved in starting off their relationship legally was definitely one of the cool parts.”

Kelly said he also enjoyed meeting people in general and hearing their comments about how the town was being run.

On the downside, Kelly said, was dealing with the party system when he was the lone representative of the minority party.

“I guess there’s a party that controls things and that’s the way it goes,” he said. “I was a little naive going in, but I thought things ran differently.”

Kelly said he was also surprised by the number of people who called his office to complain, as opposed to those who called to say the township “did something spectacular.”

“There’s a guy who calls up every two weeks to yell about the signs on the telephone poles on Landing Lane,” he said. “He never leaves any contact information. So be prepared for that.”

Probably the defining issue for Kelly was his cancer diagnosis early in his term. Kelly said that although he intended to carry on, he was ready to step down if the treatment proved too much for his body.

“It was kind of a whirlwind because I went from my diagnosis to my first treatment within two weeks, with a council meeting right afterword where I had to announce the whole thing,” he said. “I didn’t really have much time to absorb it, but I think that helped because I didn’t have much time to dwell on it.”

Kelly said the treatment, which he received in Franklin, didn’t slow him down too much, and he was able to make all of his meetings.He did cut down on his work travel, though.

He was also buoyed by the support he received from people in and outside of the township, Kelly said.

“Having a lot of friends and support definitely helped,” he said. “Seeing there were other mayors and governors who had the same thing I did and were going through the same thing I did” helped too, he said. “The mayor of Rocky Hill, Ed Zimmerman, had the same thing a few years go, so he reahed out to me.”

Having cancer “did kind of change my perspective on a lot of things,” he said. “There are much bigger things in the world than winning an election or winning a dicussion. I have my health and my sanity back.”

Kelly said he’s ready to return to being a “regular” citizen, but he will remain active in the town and the county.

And, he said, he wishes his successor “the best of luck.”

“I think he’ll make wise decisions,” Kelly said of Kramer. “I know I’m not the font of advice, but I’m always here if he needs anything or if there’s anything I can do for Franklin.”

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