Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS): Who Is Keith Kelly?
President Barack Obama has nominated an Army veteran who has been a state-level labor official to serve as the next Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS). Keith Kelly, who was awarded a Bronze Star for his service with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, will serve as chief of VETS, an agency in the Department of Labor that provides resources and services to help veterans locate grants, training, and employment opportunities, and to ensure their right to return to a job after completion of military service. If confirmed by the Senate, Kelly will succeed Ray Jefferson, an Army veteran who served in the position from August 7, 2009, to July 26, 2011.
Born in Red Lodge, Montana, circa 1945, Kelly earned a B.S. in Agriculture Business and an MS in Economics and Agriculture Economics at Montana State University.
He served as director of the Montana Agriculture Department from 1983 to 1989, and as head of the Arizona Agriculture Department from 1990 to 1997. He served in the federal government from 1997 to 2001 as administrator of the Farm Service Agency and executive vice president of the Commodity Credit Corporation at the United States Department of Agriculture. Back in the private sector after the 2000 elections, Kelly was president of his own firm, Kelly & Associates, LLC, from 2001 to 2002.
He returned to Montana state government to serve as administrator for the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) from 2002 to 2004. He has served as commissioner of the DLI since January 2005, when Governor Brian Schweitzer appointed him. Kelly’s grandfather, John Thomas Kelly, served as commissioner of DLI’s predecessor agency, Montana’s Department of Agriculture, Labor and Industry, from 1939-1941.
Kelly served as chair and vice chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies from 2009 to 2010.
A Democrat, Kelly donated $500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004 and $250 to the Montana Democratic Central Committee in 2009.
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