Women Who Mean Business Honoree Profile: Trish Kelly
“A lot of what I do is to bring people together and connect them,” she said.
Kelly manages Valley Vision’s programs in food and agriculture, broadband and digital literacy, and workforce development. She has a decades-long track record in all three, leading regional and statewide efforts at for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller has known Kelly for at least a decade, working with her on a statewide economic development program while he was running public policy for the Sacramento Metro Chamber.
When he moved to Valley Vision, Kelly approached him about making digital broadband more accessible in rural areas. Mueller brought Kelly on as a consultant, then recruited her to be co-leader of the organization.
“She is literally the regional clearninghouse on some of the most important issues we care about,” Mueller said. “If you need to know background on any of those issues, she probably had a lot to do with the writing of the policy.”
A native of the Philadelphia area, Kelly moved west after getting her master’s degree in urban planning. Her first foray into nonprofit consulting was working with a community-development group to improve job and economic conditions for Monterey-area farmworkers.
Mary Kimball, executive director of the Center for Land-Based Learning, is now working with Kelly on a program that puts young farmers in business apprenticeships and gets high school students interested in ag-related careers. She said Kelly’s connections to regulators and funding sources have been invaluable.
“The center just got notice that we got $100,000 funding for creating an ag-tech innovator hub, but we would not have known about it or had the opportunity to apply for it if it wasn’t for Trish,” Kimball said. “She helps bring the money in.”
To Kelly, an ag-based economy is more than just great local restaurants and farmers markets. “It’s about the whole food system that rests underneath it – food banks, distributors, nonprofits training the next generation of farmers.”
Kelly is particularly proud of how she’s elevated the need for broadband as an important public-policy issue. “Everyone needs that infrastructure, so we’re doing a lot of work to close the digital divide and connect the underserved communities,” she said.
She’s also managing several efforts that tie together green technology and economic development. One is the Broadband as a Green Strategy program. That involves working with agencies such as the and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create a strategy for highlighting high-speed internet as a way to help California meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and boost economic development.
Another project, funded by the California Energy Commission, involves a partnership of public and nonprofit agencies that looks at workforce-development strategies revolving around electric cars and other clean-energy technologies.
Earlier this year, the California Association for Local Economic Development gave Kelly its Golden Bear Lifetime Achievement Award, reserved for those who’ve made a lasting impact on the state’s economy.
“That award is by an election of peers,” Mueller said. “That fact makes her a singular leader, not only in the Sacramento region, but statewide.”
Education: Bachelor’s in Spanish, Georgetown University; master’s in urban and regional planning, University of Pennsylvania
Family: Lives in Land Park with husband, Cary Rudman, three sons ages 24 to 31
First job:“Babysititng. I’m the oldest of five, so I already had that responsibility gene in me for taking care of people and being responsible.”
Advice to younger women:“Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to take risks. I moved here from New Jersey without knowing anyone but I just followed my North Star, with positive results. Find good people who will challenge you, mentor you and support you in your growth. And support other women.”
Biggest whoops:“When I was making presentations to City Council, I made comments that maybe I shouldn’t have. When a councilmember answered a public question, and I added my own answer, mine were the ones that ended up in the press. Not a big disaster, but those were little reminders that sometimes it’s not good to say anything.”
Favorite way to unwind:“Good eating and good conversation.”
Fantasy career:“I’d love to have a foundation where I can invest in a lot of things I believe in.”
Person you would most like to meet:“It’s a tie between Pope Francis, Barak Obama and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”
Something about you that would surprise people:“I’m a certified scuba diver, and I love to go dive in Mexico and Hawaii.”