Kelly Fajardo does it all. She is an entrepreneur, businesswoman, community blogger, mother of three, web designer, and now a candidate in New Mexico for county clerk in Valencia County.
Born and raised in New Mexico, Kelly family moved to California with her family for high school. “But it wasn’t too long before we moved back to New Mexico,” Kelly said. "New Mexico is my home!”
Now Kelly is on the ballot for her local elections.
“Running for office was never on the list of the things to do,” Kelly said. “I was helping a friend of mine during his 2010 campaign and several people asked when I was running. My answer was always, ‘Never, I’m a behind-the-scenes person.’”
“I wanted to get involved in politics to make a difference and stand up for my conservative values,” Kelly explained. “The information, training, and skills I learned through LI helped me have the confidence to know that I can run a successful campaign.”
Kelly credits LI training for getting her ready to run. “I don’t think I would have ever taken the step to run if not for LI," she said.
Kelly has attended six LI trainings. She first learned of the Institute in April 2010 when she traveled to the Steven P.J. Wood Building in Arlington, Virginia for the Campaign Manager School. “I attended Leadership Institute training because I wanted to get more involved in politics and had no idea where to start,” Kelly said. “A friend of mine heard about LI and was already planning on attending the week-long Campaign Management School, so I tagged along. It was a life-changing week!”
“When you ask what I learned, I learned EVERYTHING," Kelly explained. "I was so new to politics, still am, and knew nothing. One of the things that stood out to me was that there was never a boring lecture. The speakers were so dynamic, so real, and I absorbed everything they said like a sponge. I left feeling confident that I could really help make a difference back home.”
In August 2010, Kelly went online to TeaPartyTraining.org to receive additional LI-sponsored training. Then in December 2010, she attended the Youth Leadership School in Flagstaff, Arizona. When Institute training came to Rio Rancho, New Mexico, she was there for the Travel Campaign Management School -- both the regular class and the advanced workshop -- and, last month, in August 2011, she attended another Youth Leadership School in Albuquerque which New Mexico Lt. Governor Sanchez visited.
Below: Lt. Governor Sanchez, Kelly, and other YLS graduates “lean right” in Albuquerque.
“At the Youth Leadership School our instructor told us to attend every [political] meeting, ‘You never know what will happen,'" Kelly said. "I have taken his advice, and I can honestly say it has benefited me tremendously. I attend as many community events and meetings as I can. In order to have a ‘reason’ to attend, I started writing my own blog. I did it for the benefit of one or two friends who wanted to know what was going on in the meetings, but the readership has grown."
“I am still surprised when someone I don’t know tells me how much they appreciate the blog,” Kelly said. “Not only has attending these meetings and writing about it helped me to stay on top of the pulse of the community, but I have met so many people and I’ve gained a great network of friends and business associates. I now tell people that 90% of getting involved in politics is just showing up!”
What drives Kelly to be so engaged and active in public policy?
“My ‘ministry’ is the youth,” Kelly explains. “I served for years in youth ministry at our local church and in the last couple of years this has morphed into helping young people get more involved in politics. After all, it is their future we are spending.”
When LI’s Youth Leadership School came to Albuquerque, Kelly evenrecruited others to join her.
“I had the privilege of being the point person in hosting a YLS in New Mexico,” Kelly says. “I encouraged everyone I knew to attend, and I have heard nothing but great feedback. I now have a whole new crop of young people trained and ready for 2012! It’s great!”
Married for 15 years to Larry Fajardo, Kelly and her husband have three boys.
Kelly had worked for the family business in accounting, payroll, and billing. Her parents started the business more than 20 years ago "from nothing," Kelly remembered. But a year ago, a tragic fire destroyed the company; "there was no way to rebuild," she said.
“Looking at the economy and knowing I had to do something for my family, I began my own business nine months ago," Kelly explained. "Having the experience of web design for the last 10 years, I started by own web design and social media consulting business [named KKF Media]. I love what I do."
“I especially enjoy working with non-profits and campaigns,” Kelly said. “I teach organizations the benefits of social media and how to run successful campaigns using the social media tools available, including fundraising techniques.”
New Mexico State Representative Alonzo Baldonado, aother LI graduate, used KKF Media for his successful campaign. “KKF Media was a game changer in our campaign," he said. "She was able to get our site up, running, and looking great. Now that we won our election, they were able to plug us into our voter base and keep us in front of the action.”
Kelly is a strong advocate for LI training, recruiting students for upcoming schools and seminars. “I just happened to speak with a gentleman the other day who is considering a run for State Legislature. It is his first time being a candidate, and the first thing I told him was to attend LI’s Campaign Manger School. I assured him the information and training would be the best investment he could ever make in his campaign. (Glad to say, he is registered for October).”
You too can receive the “best investment in your campaign” by registering for LI’s monthly campaign training. The next campaign training is next week--October 3-6. For more information and to register, please click here.
To nominate someone for Leadership Institute Graduate of the Week, please contact LI's External Affairs Officer Lauren Hart at LaurenHart@LeadershipInstitute.org.