Greatness in Amherst: Larry Kelley

Larry KelleyThe first four profiles I wrote in this series focused on community leaders who, as far as I can tell, are pretty well-respected. For the next four, I’m going to be bold and bestow compliments on people who tend to get a lot of flac but who I still think are assets to the community. Nobody fits that bill better than Larry Kelley.

Larry writes the blog Only in the Republic of Amherst, where he diligently follows goings-on around town and provides commentary on them. I would be surprised if at some point he has not clashed with all of the subjects I’ve previously profiled in this series. He is a self-described conservative in a staunchly liberal community, but is also a prime example of how national politics sometimes map poorly onto local politics. In terms of Town Meeting votes, I tend to agree with him a majority of the time! He wants Amherst to be run more efficiently and responsibly, and if you recognize his hot-button issues (flags & patriotism, Cherry Hill Golf Course, high-salaried administrators in schools, UMass responsibility) and look through his sometimes belligerent tone of disgust at poor behavior around town, it is clear that he cares about this place a lot, as I do.

But what I like most about Larry is not simply his passion, or the fact that he too is an Amherst native, but the fact that he is masterful at rocking the boat. I think one of Amherst’s biggest challenges right now is the difficulty of adapting to our changing environment given the traditionalism & caution of Town Meeting, and Larry delights in shaking things up, which is an important thing to do in a calcified system. Absolutely he offends people. Absolutely I don’t agree with him all the time. But that’s okay, in my mind, because he serves an important role in the local discourse.

Did I mention that Larry is a proud father of two young girls? He owned Amherst Athletic Club in Pomeroy Village (Larry himself has an impressive history as a martial artist). And talking to him in person, I have found him to be quiet, kind, and respectful.

I think Larry is great, and thoroughly interesting. I read his blog diligently, and you should too, even if it makes you angry. He has a lot of good information, and is worth paying attention to.