Candidate promises to preserve history

Published 7:00 pm Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jerald W. Kelly decided to file for the mayoral race when the city demolished a bridge on Oakland Avenue.

Jerald Kelly

“It was the only bridge of its kind in the whole state of Minnesota,” Kelly said. “There was no reason for that.”

Kelly was upset about the bridge and went to ask the county about it. County officials told him that the county gave the bridge to the city of Austin. The city “went and buried it underground,” he said.

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That bridge was part of the history of Austin which is what Kelly wants to protect. It was one example of heritage that should be left for upcoming generations, he said. But Kelly said he has another reason to protect Austin’s history: It can get people to come into the city.

“I want to put Austin on the map,” he said. Many companies could settle in Austin, but they decide instead to establish themselves in Albert Lea or Rochester. The same problem exists when it comes to attractions, he said. Interesting events and landmarks are too infrequent in Austin to bring people nearby communities instead. People need to be drawn to Austin, he said.

While the bridge was Kelly’s main incentive for getting involved, he has a few other goals for the city.

“One thing I’d do right away is have Park and Rec. go to East Side Lake and pull the weeds out of the shoreline,” he said. He also wants to bring businesses to Main Street, hold air shows to Austin, have boat shows on East Side Lake and see more concerts at the Bandshell.

Kelly, 90, has lived in Austin for 85 years. He and his brothers worked on the Milwaukee Railroad in Austin, and he later spent over 20 years working different positions on iron ore boats on the Great Lakes.

“I’ve done everything in my life but drive a big semi,” Kelly said. He described himself as a free spirit, and said he has enjoyed his life so far.

Kelly has no prior experience working with the city, but he has attended several City Council meetings. In February he went to demand that a flag be returned to a Boy Scouts plaque at Sutton Park. The flag represented the start of Boy Scouts in Austin, he said.

“I’m madder than hell,” he told the council. “I want that flag put back up there by tomorrow.”

The flag was returned to its original spot the next day, he said.

Kelly said if he’s elected mayor he would like everybody to come and see him with any ideas they have.

“I’d just like to see Austin come back again,” he said. “I love this town very much. I don’t want anybody to do damage to it.”