Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Remembering Max Kelley

Max Kelley was elected mayor of Winnfield in 1982 when he was not quite 30 years old. He served two terms during which he led the effort to revitalize the town. Today would have been his 61st birthday. Max died in 1994 at the age of 42.

Max was a brilliant marketer. He promoted Winnfield with a verve that I don't think you'd be likely to see in a mayor who had already entered middle-age. One of his most stellar accomplishments was helping to make downtown Winnfield a shooting location for the movie Blaze. That happened 20 years before north Louisiana had a significant film-making community. He was also one of the major players in establishing the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in the renovated L & A Depot.

My first political involvement was a letter I wrote to Mayor Kelley when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I told him that I thought Winnfield would benefit from having a pet store. (I never got a reply to that letter and Winnfield still doesn't have a pet store.)

I got to know him slightly a few years latter and he really did seem like a nice man. That impressed me a lot, given that many of the local officials in Winn Parish have seemed like douchebags.

One of the last times I saw Max Kelley was a few months before he found out he had cancer. A tourist from Wales had stopped me on North Street and asked for directions. While giving her a brief tour of downtown Winnfield, I stopped by Max's store on Main Street. Max welcomed the Welshwoman to Winnfield and took the time to give her (and me) a lesson on local history. He even pitched to her his idea of saving the old Winnfield Hotel, just in case she knew any potential investors.

A year later Max was dead and not long after that the old Winnfield Hotel was demolished. I think Winnfield would have been better if both could have stayed around awhile longer.

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