“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.” – Marian Wright Edelman
Since our family moved to Billings in 1978, I have been actively involved in the community, serving 15 years on the Billings School Board and participating in United Way, the Billings Strategic Plan, the All-America Cities Award Committee, Billings Clinic Foundation, St. John’s Lutheran Ministries, Family Promise and Drug Court Advisory Committee. I have learned so much from being involved in these community-building activities! My personal focus in all of those years has been on the welfare of children and families. My own family has enjoyed the economic, educational, cultural and recreational opportunities that Billings affords, and these experiences have made me believe we have something precious in Montana that deserves to be preserved and sustained. My personal commitment is to “paying forward” and contributing what I can to making Montana an even better place for people to live and grow.
I grew up in the small Ohio town of Chagrin Falls (population 3,500). My father had a printing/advertising business located right on the main street next to the actual Chagrin Falls, and my mother taught high school English, French and Home Economics. Both of my parents were very active in the community and our church, and they modeled that commitment for us three children. My early years in a small town provided me with a stable, nurturing childhood with close connections to a wide variety of people, including my adopted brother Gaffar who joined our family as a foreign exchange student from Cambodia and became my second brother. As a first grader, I contracted polio. This event deeply affected me; I saw other children suffering in the rehabilitation hospital and knew that some of them died. I was grateful that my case of polio was a lighter one, but having polio made me a serious child—well aware that life brought both joy and pain.
Education and Work
I always wanted to grow up to be a teacher. I was the classical kid who played school and coerced my younger siblings and the neighborhood children to be the pupils. I loved babysitting, teaching Sunday school, giving swimming lessons, and being a camp counselor. After high school, I attended Hiram College, a small liberal arts school, where my parents had gone and where I met my future husband Paul Kelker. Not surprisingly, I graduated with a degree in English and taught high school and college English while putting my husband through medical school. As my husband continued his medical education with an internship, residency and fellowship, I had various teaching positions ranging from preschool and kindergarten to fourth grade science, Upward Bound and college English. While teaching at these different levels, I fell in love with children and youth with special needs and earned a Master’s Degree in special education. With that degree, I became a Resource Teacher and then a traveling Special Education Consultant Teacher. My next position grew out of my experiences in special education. A friend with a daughter with severe disabilities and I founded a non-profit called Parents, Let’s Unite for Kids (PLUK). Its purpose was to provide information and support for children with disabilities and their families. From a small project begun at my friend’s kitchen table on the south side in Billings, PLUK grew to become a thriving statewide organization. I was its Executive Director for 16 years. Then, I earned my doctorate in Adult and Higher Education (Special Education Concentration) and went back into teaching as an Assistant Professor of Special Education at MSU-Billings. After retiring from the university, I got the best job I ever had as the Executive Director of Head Start, Inc. with 105 employees and a budget of over $3 million. At Head Start I saw what a huge difference high quality early education makes in the lives of preschoolers and their families. Every day with those children and families was a pleasure. I retired from Head Start in May 2014. I am retired now, but still involved in church and community.
My husband Paul and I have been married for 53 years. He retired after thirty-nine years of practicing general pediatrics and pediatric hematology-oncology (treatment of blood disorders and cancer) at the Billings Clinic. We have four adult children—Stephen (Kristin), Matthew (Julie) , Christopher and Sara (Ron) and seven grandchildren—Marissa, Ellie, Cody, Iris, Zoe, Ivy Rose and Julian.
I have been fortunate to be elected to represent HD 47 in three legislative session—2014, 2016, and 2018. I have loved my opportunity to serve. At first it was overwhelming—there was so much to learn! But I got into the swing of things and became fascinated by the issues before us. In the 66th Session, I served on the Judiciary and Human Services Committees. I carried 14 bills related to gifted education, healthcare, and human services. “
HB 17, HB 25, and HB 69 were Committee Bills that came out with unanimous support from the Children and Families Health and Human Services Interim Committee. These bills failed on party-line votes as did the other bills that I carried, except for gifted education.
For more detailed information, visit my legislator page on leg.mt.gov
Why Am I Running Again?
I’m passionate about educating our children from preschool to post-secondary and training a qualified workforce. If re-elected, I will be a positive and effective voice for Billings in the Legislature. As your legislator, I will advocate for…
- Working families
- Quality public education
- Small businesses
- Infrastructure updates
- Public safety
- Public access to public lands
What Are My Values?
- Equal opportunity for all citizens
- High quality public education Preschool- Grade 12 and safe schools
- The right of people to express their opinions and beliefs and advocate for their positions
- Protection for the environment and Montana’s outdoor life style
- A balanced approach to clean, abundant, and reliable energy, including renewable energy
- Using technology to create new jobs and remain competitive in a global economy
- Making quality health care affordable and available and protecting privacy in health care choices