Chief Administrative Officer - Dr. John R. Kelly
The Office of the Chief Administrator serves as a vital link between the Mayor’s Office, City Council, department directors and other entities to facilitate outcomes consistent with the overall vision and mission of the City of Gulfport. The CAO oversees the city’s more than 20 departments and is responsible for oversight and management of city operations, ensuring efficiency, accountability and productivity in the city’s commitment to deliver quality services through the daily operations of municipal government.
General Responsibilities of the Office:
John R. Kelly is a native Mississippian, having grown up on his family’s farm in the central part of the state. He has lived on the coast for the past 45 years. Since 2006, he has served as the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for Mississippi’s second largest city, Gulfport. As Gulfport’s chief administrative officer he oversees the city’s 10 departments; he is responsible for oversight and management of city operations, ensuring efficiency, accountability and productivity in the city’s commitment to deliver quality services through the daily operations of municipal government.
First appointed by former Mayor Brent Warr, he was then reappointed four years later by the newly elected Mayor George Schloegel. He is now working with his 3rd Mayor, Billy Hewes in the same capacity.
He is a graduate of Alcorn State University. He has a master’s degree from Wayne State University in Detroit and a doctorate from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. For 27 years, he worked as an adjunct professor at the University Southern Mississippi Gulf Park Campus, where he taught courses in sociology and social psychology.
John spent most of his career as a senior executive with the Department of Defense. At the time of his retirement from federal service in December 2005, he worked as Regional Director for Community and Family support with Navy Region South East in Jacksonville, FL. As Regional Director, he directed the operation of a broad, multi-faceted family support program that encompassed mental health counseling, psychological testing, family housing, skills for living training, family advocacy and funeral honors details for service members and their families at 12 Naval installations around the South Eastern United States, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Immediately after retirement, John managed his own consulting firm, Resources Management, Inc. Resources Management is a research, training and development firm that did business with both the public and private sector.
John has a solid record of community and social involvement. In early April 2019, he was the recipient of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Friendship Oak award. This award honors individuals who have been consistent supporters of the university. He was chosen by the Sun Herald newspaper as one of the Gulf Coast’s Outstanding Community Leaders for 2011. During this same time frame, he was named by the Sun Herald’s magazine Beach Boulevard as a Boulevard Shaper. He is immediate Past President of the National Association of State Board of Education (NASBE). This national organization works with state boards of education in formulating policies and positions papers for the betterment of public education in states across the country. He was appointed in June 2011 by Governor Haley Barbour to the State Board of Education where he still serves. He is a past chairman of the board. He served as chairman of the National Board of Director for the American Cancer Society from 1999-2001. He is a former President and Chief Volunteer Officer for South Mississippi’s United Way. He has also served as President of the Board for Gulfport Job Corps Center. For two years he served on the board Trustee for Leadership Gulf Coast. He is a member of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church where he has served as Chairman of the Board of Deacons and the church’s Rebuilding Committee. The church moved into its new four million dollar facility in December 2008. The church was virtually destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
He married his college sweetheart Bernell T. Kelly. Bernell is a retired Principal with the Biloxi School District. They have two adult daughters Felice K. Gillam and Kristi K. Hicks. They also have two grandchildren: Raegan, a recent graduate of Tugaloo College who heads to Ole Miss this fall for graduate school, and Dallas who is 6 years old.
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