If you’ve called the Mackinac Center in the last two years, you’ve almost certainly heard the voice of JoAnne Kelley. She’s the first voice heard by thousands of people who call and the first face seen by hundreds when they walk in the front door.
She’s the connection people all over the state have to Michigan’s largest think tank when they need someone to answer a question or discuss a potential legal case. Her primary job is getting them to the right person for help.
“It’s very rewarding to be in a job helping people,” Kelley said. “And I get to do it at a place which really cares about people and their employees – more than anywhere else I’ve worked.”
She grew up in Saginaw Township before moving all over the country. She moved to Memphis, then Dallas, then Toledo, and after nearly two decades, she came back to “God’s Country” in Michigan.
“All of my jobs have been in office administrator positions,” she said. “I love seeing people and being around people, so it fits.”
Kelley moved back in 2011 to take care of her mom, who had lung cancer. In time, she married her high school sweetheart, Thom Kelley. Moving back also allowed her to be closer to the family cottage in Alpena, where visits have been a tradition for more than 50 years.
She worked a few jobs in Midland before finding the Mackinac Center. Before applying for a job, Kelley spent time reading up on public policy and the free-market positions the Mackinac Center believes in. She admits she isn’t as much of a policy nerd as some of her colleagues, but she wholeheartedly agrees with the principles that her employer stands for.
Outside of work, she’s a music lover, especially the band Journey. She attended the Country Music Association awards in 2022 in Las Vegas and has been to other concerts across the country. Kelley is also a huge animal lover; she has a black lab named Hank and two cats, Luna and Gus.
“I just love to laugh and enjoy life,” she said.
Kelley lives in Midland with her husband Thom, who works down the street at Ace Hardware. She has two stepsons, who are married, and two grandkids.