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Michael Kelsey — A Different Picture than PoJo

by Antonia Shoumatoff
Tue May 10th, 2016

The Poughkeepsie Journal is presenting a different picture of former County Legislator, Michael Kelsey, than the one that our area had come to know and respect in its coverage of his trial in Canton, New York involving alleged sexual abuse of two boyscouts.

Kelsey wrote a regular column for The Millbrook Independent in which he advocated for the needy of the region.  As a reporter I was aware of Mike Kelsey’s reputation in the community as an advocate for the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill and youth offenders.

He represented Amenia, Washington, Stanford, Pleasant Valley and the Village of Millbrook in the Dutchess County Legislature His first act as legislator was to advocate for funding in the state budget for the Cardinal Hayes Home for disabled children in Millbrook, which he obtained.

In one column in 2010 he wrote of helping restore $80,000 in funding for homeless shelters in the Dutchess County budget.  He heading up “a committee to develop increased emergency shelter beds, improving re-housing opportunities, providing rent subsidies, case management, teaching financial literacy, employment coaching, as well as mental health and/or substance abuse counseling.”

He concluded, “We each have important roles to play in building up our community. Looking out for our less fortunate neighbors is one. Exercising hospitality to newcomers, not the least of who are our newly naturalized citizens, is another.”

Kelsey hosted forums throughout the county (not just in his legislative district) to help parents access mental health services for their children. This was in response to the decision of regional hospitals to shut down   psychiatric units for children. A child in crisis had to go out-of-county for hospitalization.  Kelsey wrote a paper reviewing the situation and how it could be remediated.

Our newspaper covered these forums.  Kelsey subsequently served as the Chairman of the Eastern Dutchess Coalition for Youth, teaming up with the Council on Addiction, Prevention, and Education to combat high school substance abuse, particularly heroin use.  

In his campaigns for county legislature and state assembly Mike went door-to-door to raise awareness about hunger in our communities, encouraging donations to food pantries.

Mike Kelsey was known to be a voice for the poor. He made political enemies with the County Executive and his Republican legislative colleagues in 2013 when he refused to go along with a new tax on home energy use. Mike was among a handful of legislators who opposed a burdensome energy tax that the County imposed on its residents the cold winter of 2013.  In The Millbrook Independent he called the tax ‘cruel and inhumane’ as it hit our seniors and those on fixed incomes in the midst of the cold winter when energy costs were already high. Kelsey had the fortitude to buck party leadership and against enormous pressure he voted against the tax, and then worked to repeal it.

Kelsey has had a reputation for fighting on behalf of the disabled. As The Millbrook Independent reported over a nine-month period Mike fought on behalf of low-income disabled property owners to get them tax relief eventually pushing through legislation despite initial resistance. This was requested by one of his constituents whose Lyme’s disease had crippled her.  Mike argued that disabled persons have a value in our community. He responded to the request of a legally blind person in Wassaic to install a street sign.  

He was able to link constituents to human services: meals on wheels, home health care, HEAP, and mental health services. In Amenia, he personally helped install the score board at the baseball field.

His reputation in the community is as one “who cares,” and that when a situation seemed hopeless he was able to find a way to achieve results.  Mike Kelsey has been known in our community as being a fighter for those who don’t have a voice of their own.

None of these achievements have been mentioned during the extensive Poughkeepsie Journal coverage of his as yet undecided situation in the court.