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Q&A with Karen Kelley: 'Gadget geek' to town employee

November 13, 2012

Born in Apple Valley and a 48-year resident of the High Desert, Karen Kelley has worked for the town of Apple Valley for 11 years.

She has three siblings, including her twin brother. Kelley developed a love for music early, playing clarinet and classical guitar from the third grade on, vying for first chair clarinet for many of those years.
“I loved writing sheet music and poetry and actually have a couple pieces of my poetry published,” Kelley said. “I’d have to say I was a complete ‘gadget geek,’ even in my early years and in the ’80s I worked for a company called King High Tech that packaged computer software.”

She would later venture into the computer hardware and software industry managing Software Etc. stores, working as a store manager and district manager. When Best Buy decided to come to California, she was recruited as a store manager and helped open all of the first California stores.

When an opportunity presented itself to get out of retail working every weekend and all holidays, she went into finance, “figuring if I was going to make a career change, I’d better do before I got any older.”
After working in finance for years, she applied for a position at the town. After more than a decade, Kelley said she thoroughly enjoys her job and the people she works with.

“And just like I enjoy my job, I enjoy living in the High Desert and it will always be ‘home’ to me.”

Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I love to do things that are relaxing in my free time like go to the beach or go out of town and try a new restaurant, catch a good movie, take the furry kids for a long walk and spend time with my loved ones. I also love going to Broadway shows at the Pantages and Kodak theatres. When you work 10 or 11 hours a day and have a household to maintain, you have to really seize your free time when it’s there.

Q: Who is someone who had a big influence on your life?
A: My older sister, hands down. She is 10 years older than I am so I always looked up to her. Because of our age difference we always had a child-adult relationship. It was so nice to get to the point in our lives where were on the same level. She always had it so together, and I learned a lot from her and from watching her. She is my best friend and with her being diagnosed with MS and what a positive outlook on life she still has, she is my inspiration every day.

Q: Where do you find deep satisfaction?
A: In making people laugh or bringing a smile to someone’s face. Truly, this is it. Well, that and when enjoying a large helping of gelato at Mama Carpinos!

Q: If you could change one thing about Apple Valley today, what would it be?
A: Gosh, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve lived in the High Desert all of my 48 years. And Apple Valley is unique for its open spaces, Joshua trees, and well just all of the things that define Apple Valley as a town. Change anything about it and it isn’t Apple Valley anymore.

Q: Tell us about a happy memory in your first car.
A: Oh my, the very first car I owned was a tricked out Ford Pinto. I remember it had a “factory” sunroof which at the time was rare. You usually had to put sunroofs in your car after factory. It also had Mag rims, a WINK mirror and a sound system you could hear from miles away. My happiest memory in that car has to be “cruisin’ the bumps” at the Plaza on the weekends. Oh those were the days!

Q: Who was your hero as a kid? Do you have a hero today (or someone you especially admire)?
A: My all time hero as a kid was the legendary Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I never missed a show as a kid and my twin brother and I actually got to meet them when we were children — needless to say, I was speechless. The sun really did rise and set with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans for me as a child.

Today I don’t have just one hero, my heroes are a collection of all the people, young and old, out there fighting cancer and dealing with other adverse things in their lives and never give up! They are my real heroes!

Q: What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?
A: Funny that you ask this, because when I did this particular thing recently I actually said, “this is the craziest thing I’ve ever done.” I actually slept outside of the Verizon store overnight to be one of the first people to get an iPhone 5. My older and much wiser sister said it was crazy and that this is not a day and age to do something like that and was worried it wasn’t safe. Actually it was a nice group of people out there with me and for the record Verizon was a class act and brought us out Starbucks coffee at 3 a.m. Don’t get me wrong, I love to have fun, but for me this is about as crazy as I get — no skydiving, stock-car racing or zip-lining for me.

Q: What are five things you can’t live without?
A: 1) My family unit (my loved ones, my life partner and good friends; 2) my furry kids; 3) Starbucks; 4) my iGadets (iPhone5 and iPad2); and 5) Laguna Beach!
Q: What makes you tick?

A: The feeling of accomplishment, at home, at work and in life in general — that’s what makes me tick! For me, things have to be organized and make sense. I am a serious type-A personality and that’s what drives me.

Q: Tell us about one thing you want to accomplish in life.
A: I defer to John Lennon on this one who wrote, “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

The one thing I would like to accomplish in life is to be happy, not just today or tomorrow and not just when things are going my way, but always. And to share that happiness with others so that when I’m gone from this earth, the ones left here will remember the happy moments we shared. Because when we leave this earth, all we get to take with us are our memories, good or bad.

Q: What are five things you are grateful for?
A: 1) My ability to feel compassion; 2) the strong sense of responsibility my parents instilled in me at a very young age; 3) this pretty darn healthy body I was provided (I don’t take that for granted, it may not always be like this); 4) Halloween and Christmas (my two favorite holidays); 5) and every day I am above ground!

Q: What are your three favorite places to eat in the High Desert?
A: 1) Mimi’s Café; 2) Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers; 3) El Pescador Mexican Restaurant.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to say, anything you’d like to get off your chest?
A: Everyone, remember to give back, pay it forward, be kind to one another and be the change you want to see in the world!


Karen Kelley has completed more than 89 pieces of poetry to date. Her poem, “From One Heart to Another,” was published by the Poetry Guild out of New York in the hard-bound book “The Sound of Poetry.” “Call of the Wild” is published in Emotions’ soft-bound copy of “Where the Pen Meets the Heart,” and “Our Secret Place” has been published by The National Library of Poetry in the hard-bound edition of “A Whispering Silence,” which received the Editor’s Choice Award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry.

Our Secret Place
Let me take you to a place where lust and passion walk hand and hand
Where you can feel confusion with no need to understand
Without ever touching the flesh you can touch the very soul of someone
You can feel the sting of fear and have no desire to run
Taste forbidden pleasures and be caressed by the grip of temptation
Become overwhelmed by curiosity and calmed by the power of fascination
Catch yourself falling into the arms of obsession and find no strength to fight
Realize what is happening is wrong yet find a way to justify and make it right
Where my touch speaks yet no words are spoken
A place where rules are forgotten and rules shall be broken