Tim Kelly ’85: Chattanooga’s Newly Elected Mayor

Tim Kelly ’85 began a new chapter in civic leadership for the Scenic City when he was sworn in as Chattanooga’s mayor on April 19 on the heels of Andy Berke ’86, who served two terms from 2013-2021.

In an episode of Baylor’s “Quadpod” podcast recorded in January leading up to the mayoral election, Kelly was interviewed by Harris-Stanford Scholars Maddie Kim ’22 and Nick Bajestani ’22. He cited critical thinking skills and leadership as two things he now appreciates about his six years as a Baylor student. “Baylor taught me a number of things, most notably the ability to think critically,” he said. “Baylor also taught me leadership. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think an important component of leadership is courage. And Baylor – in my time there– was very much about speaking up and saying what you felt, and having the courage to uphold your convictions…upon reflection those are two things I definitely got from Baylor.”

As a student, Kelly was president of the Round Table, an editor of The Baylor Notes, and vice president of the German Club. He was also a member of the Inner Circle and the Baylor Players. After earning a B.A. degree in comparative literature from Columbia University in 1989, he returned to Chattanooga to work at the Cadillac dealership that his grandfather, Jim Ayers, founded in 1936. In 2001, at the age of 34, Kelly took over the Kelly Cadillac, Saab, Subaru dealership following his father’s retirement.

And Baylor – in my time there– was very much about speaking up and saying what you felt, and having the courage to uphold your convictions.

Over the years, his business roles expanded to include several entrepreneurial ventures. He formerly serves as chairman of the board for the Chattanooga Football Club, which he co-founded. The list of companies he owns, co-owns, founded and/or operates includes Kelly Subaru, Chattanooga Brewing Company, Southern Honda Powersports, SocialBot and Workshop.

As a civic leader, Kelly has served on boards for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga, the Benwood Foundation, River City Company, Allied Arts (now Arts-Build), Chattanooga 2.0, and the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, among others. At Baylor, he served a two-year term as a trustee and chairman of the Alumni Board from 2011 – 2013.

Kelly is the father of Jack ’14 and Cannon ’16.