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Meet Our Fellows: Kay Ely ('19)

Fellow Spotlight: Kay Ely

By: Kay Ely

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Who or what inspired you to work in public service?

My father. He was a civil servant for most of his career. He worked over 30 years with the Small Business Administration in Little Rock, Arkansas. When I was growing up, the stories he told at the dinner table every night about how the agency helped small businesses get started and also provided assistance during disasters was my inspiration. The concept of providing needed services to the public intrigued me. It was only natural that I chose a career as a public servant and followed in his footsteps.

What is something you are excited about right now?

As a public servant for many years at several different agencies I had the opportunity to see the impact of government service in so many citizen’s lives. Even though I am retired from the federal government, I am still able to have an impact on serving the public, it is now just a different delivery model. I am very excited about the companies I consult with and their innovative solutions they want to share with the government to solve problems. I am glad I can still be a part of that.

What is your favorite class you have ever taught or took and why?

Definitely Biology. Although the subject and the science itself was interesting to me, it really was the Biology teacher that made it my favorite class. She encouraged us to look at science through different lenses and to examine all theories and possibilities. That class included lab partners and it was my earliest exposure to working in partnership with team members. The foundational concepts I learned in that High School Biology classroom helped me throughout my career to make smart evidence-based decisions.

What inspires you during these challenging times?

Family, friendships, and work relationships. Connection to others and knowing that we as a nation are resilient and we will come out better and stronger in the end despite all the challenges we are facing. I often see random acts of kindness and it supports my belief that we as a community are emerging more knowing and more caring.

What advice can you give to folks beginning careers in public service?

Don’t focus on others. Just focus on being the best version of yourself. There will always be someone who got promoted before you do or gets recognition that you think you should have gotten. Ignore that noise and just do the best job you can do while always working to improve and provide the best service to the public you can.

What is your favorite midnight snack?

Popcorn (popped on the stove – not microwaved) with lots of olive oil!

Do you have any pets at home?

Not now. We did during most of the time the kids were growing up. I do miss the unconditional love a pet provides!

If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see?

Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address. I think we could use those key words in that famous speech every day during these times. I have to say Martin Luther King delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech is a very close second! To be present to hear either of those speeches would be riveting to me.

Do you have a favorite podcast, journal, newspaper, or other kind of media?

My nephew told me a couple of years ago about the Business Wars podcast and I have found them to be fascinating. The podcast highlights companies who over the years have battled it out in their respective areas of competition. I just listened to Estee Lauder vs L’Oréal and each time I learn a new idea or concept that can be applied to my consulting role of helping businesses be successful. And there is a Small Business War Stories that I want to check out considering my family history and personal commitment to Small Businesses being successful.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

No matter what you do there is always someone to second guess your decisions and your choices. As long as you are true to yourself, faithful to your core values and at the end of the day you can look yourself in the mirror and say I did my best and gave it my all, that is all you need.

									 Kay Ely
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