Kelly Bates, Esq., is Executive Director of Access Strategies Fund, the nonprofit/nonpartisan charitable foundation that empowers underserved communities in Massachusetts to access democracy. She joined the Fund in 1999. During her tenure, it has doubled grants and raised over $1 million to support the participation of women, people of color, and low-income and immigrant communities in the 2010 U.S. Census and 2011 Massachusetts redistricting process. Kelly has overseen funding of nationally recognized voter engagement projects in major Bay State cities, particularly in Boston and Chelsea. She oversees the Fund’s new program to tackle economic disparities and the undue influence of corporations in politics.
Kelly’s 20-year career spans politics, public policy, nonprofit leadership, philanthropy, business development, and human services. She has been deeply involved in grassroots lobbying, community action, coalition building, and political education. She has extensive networks. She is known as accessible, inclusive, resourceful, strategic, principled, and caring.
“I believe in practical politics that puts the people’s needs and the public interest first,” she explains.
Earlier, Kelly served as Legislative Advocate for the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, lobbying at the state level on behalf of human services, health care and housing policy issues. She helped to reform public housing rent laws so that more families could work while retaining affordable housing. She also served as the Executive Director of the Women’s State-Wide Legislative Network, leading the coalition that passed the law requiring employers to establish policies and training programs to prevent sexual harassment. Subsequently, she trained and consulted nationally on workplace law.
A regular political commentator on WGBH/89.7, Boston’s NPR radio station, Kelly delivers expert analyses of federal, state, and local elections, as well as opinion pieces on Congressional reform, voter engagement, youth violence, racism, gay rights, war, peace and related topics.
Biracial (of African-American and Irish/English-American descent), Kelly was born in California, raised in New York City, and has lived in Boston for more than two decades. She attended public schools K-12. In 1991, she graduated magna cum laude from the State University of New York (SUNY Albany) and moved to Boston to attend Boston University Law School where she earned her law degree in 1994. She has one son and resides in Roslindale.
Kelly loves Massachusetts’ vibrant ethnic traditions, rich cultural history, bellwether politics, and global technological prominence. She has had a deep connection to the state ever since she started visiting as a toddler with her mom and dad. Her father’s family has lived in and around Boston since the late 1600s.
“I am a child of, and believer in, the grand experiment of democratic diversity that began in New England, and in the ideas of freedom, equality and social justice that have evolved throughout the nation and the world ever since.”