Kelly sees DA job as way to help community

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – For Trent Kelly, becoming District 1’s top prosecutor fulfills a dream he’s had a long time.
As the Saltillo resident gets settled into the job as the district’s chief prosecutor, he says he’ll look at ways to provide electronic documents for easier access by staff, as well as develop ways the public and other attorneys can get information electronically about the office’s activities.
Kelly, 45, says he believes the district attorney’s office can have a positive impact on the community.
“You can send bad people away or you can reach out a helping hand to people who aren’t necessarily bad.
“I pray for discernment to know the difference.”
Kelly grew up in the small Neshoba community of Newton County and got his first teenage job at the Union Appeal newspaper. Later, he worked building shipping pallets.
Those jobs helped get him through East Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi where he earned a business degree.
He joined the National Guard as a private in December 1985, then through Ole Miss ROTC, he was commissioned an officer three years later. He’s now a lieutenant colonel with two tours of duty in Iraq with Mississippi’s 155th Brigade Combat Team.
Kelly says if he hadn’t gone to Iraq, he’d probably still be moving up in the McRae’s department store management, which brought him to Lee County out of college.
But he came back from military duty with a desire to go to law school, at first thinking he’d be a corporate lawyer because of his business background.
“But when I got into private practice, I felt like I was helping people,” he notes, saying that emotion just deepened after he became Tupelo’s city prosecutor.
Some people need to go to jail, he admits, but others just need help in the midst of a bad situation.
He plans to expand his office’s pretrial diversion program because he says he realizes some nonviolent offenders don’t need to be held in jails.
“In the end of this program, we hope to have a productive citizen,” he adds of the people who complete it.
He says his election as district attorney fulfills a longtime dream.
Four years ago when he faced Young as a Democrat, he lost.
“I want the public to know I work hard, that I care,” Kelly notes. “I can be compassionate, I can be hard when I need to and I’m accessible.”
He says he’s excited and gratified with the new challenge.
“Maybe humbling is a better word – it’s humbling to lose and it’s humbling to win when you realize how so many people helped you make it happen.”