Photo of Kelley Lee

It was a Sunday morning early in the fall of 2022 when Kelley Lee felt a tugging on his spirit. The feeling came, appropriately enough, while sitting in church.

“The message convicted me that I had knowledge and talents that might be useful for the community, and I didn’t need to be selfish in my retirement,” he recalled. “I prayed on it, and the school district came into focus.”

Lee’s professional knowledge base is considerable. He retired in March of 2022 following a 37-year banking career, with 30-plus years in senior executive roles for publicly traded and privately held financial institutions.

Acting on conviction, Lee signed up to run for the Place 2 seat on the Athens ISD Board of Trustees and was elected in May of this year.

“We’ve been very fortunate in our district to consistently have strong and caring trustees on our board, and Mr. Lee is no exception,” said AISD Superintendent Dr. Janie Sims. "In his first few months on the board he has dedicated himself to learning how a public school operates, asks thoughtful questions, and shows a clear concern for our staff and students.”

Lee said God has given him a heart for the children of Athens ISD.

“I want us to be as effective as possible meeting the needs of all kids, but … I have a personal passion for the economically disadvantaged,” he said. “We have students whose parents have limited English proficiency. I’d like to explore more ways to help the parents help their children, despite the challenges of language or technology barriers.”

Lee said one of the unexpected realizations he’s had since joining the board in May is just how heavily regulated public education is at both the federal and state levels. But he’s been pleased by the district’s sound financial position.

“That’s no surprise,” he said. “I began delving into the operating numbers even before the election. The district has been very conservative in their approach to managing tax-payer dollars. That’s great news, because there are a lot of districts that aren’t. As a banker, that’s speaking my love language.”

Having moved back to Athens in January of 2022 after work had taken him elsewhere, Lee has lived in Athens now for a total of 18-plus years. His local civic and community leadership record is stellar, including service as chairman of the Henderson County United Way, president of the Athens Industrial Foundation, member of the board of managers for ETMC Athens (now UT Health Athens) and the Athens Chamber of Commerce, and co-founder of Henderson County Junior Achievement.

He and his wife, Jay Jay, have been married 22 years. They have four children, two grandsons and are members of Life Fellowship Church.