Kelly, Greens making fast inroads
Democracy originated in late 5th century Athens. All recognized citizens, men exclusively, were allowed to partake in elections, while various assemblies were also formed for important decision-making on how a city-state would conduct its business.
The original premise of Rule by the People went through a number of transformative phases, eventually settling on duly elected representatives being elected to speak for the citizenry.
In Waterford, the RTM (Representative Town Meeting) is chosen by voters within local districts. Expectations and trust are invested in these elected officials to serve intelligently and honorably.
One of those chosen in November turned out to be a 22-year-old University of Connecticut graduate student who received the highest number of votes in his district. Even more impressive, he won under the banner of a minor party he helped co-found locally.
Joshua Steele Kelly now serves proudly as the Green Party representative of the Waterford RTM, its youngest member. Kelly is a 2013 graduate of Waterford High School and a past avid participant of the school’s vaunted theater and music programs.
He first enrolled at Ithaca College in New York as a performance and music major, with aspirations for a career in opera. But an additonal calling beckoned this versatile young man who also harbors visions of another sort.
“I saw theater and the arts as a viable means of social change,” he said. “I even started the ‘Theatre for Social Change’ at Ithaca College,” he added. “And I had every intention of utilizing it for that purpose, given my background and interest in both areas. But my social conscience was speaking loudly to me that I become more directly involved. “
Kelly’s social conscience got an added nudge in the form of a friend the same age, Baird Welch Collins — a government major at Connecticut College in New London who held aspirations much akin to Kelly’s own. Collins had already involved himself directly, having run for a minor public office in Waterford while still an undergrad at Connecticut College.
Shortly after, Kelly changed his own major to government studies and soon co-founded with Collins a branch of the Green Party in Waterford. Meetings were held, participants initially being only family members and likeminded friends, all while Kelly was still studying as an undergrad at both Ithaca and Wheaton College.
“People basically trivialized the notion of a Green Party in town, and those of us who comprised it as well. But as time wore on and we stayed the course, our numbers grew, and so did the level of respect we gained,” he explained. “In 2015 I was elected Zoning Board alternate. It gave a chance to make an immediate impact, with hopes for more in the future too.”
As a Green Party rep and now in a position of looming responsibility and public trust, Kelly already has a syllabus of party fundamentals he is ready to act upon government transparency, environmental principles, 21st-century educational concepts, durable infrastructure and local economy.
“Government transparency means that towns and states need to communicate more openly with residents,” he said. “For instance, if there are going to be zoning changes, then the public needs better access to that information so people can turn out and voice their opinions, and then vote on it if given that opportunity.”
As for the environment, Kelly believes there has been too much development that compromises conservation efforts.
“We need to maintain more open space and more nature preserves if we want to keep our environment and natural lands healthy,” he said.
Kelly also wants improved roads in town, saying a major investment in porous concrete is necessary to absorb the water that leads to flooding.
“This has been utilized very effectively in Europe,” he explained, “as has the premise of power lines being moved underground, a concept that has already been applied successfully in various sectors of Waterford.”
Finally there is the matter of the local economy and Waterford’s strong dependency on the Millstone Power Plant. “One third of the town’s tax budget is dependent on Millstone,” said Kelly. “We need to diversify and soon... especially in the event that Millstone were ever to close,” he added.