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“Nationals October 2019

Letter to the Editor: Elly Tierney’s son addresses issues

| October 30, 2017, 12:22 PM

The following is a letter sent to us from Elly Tierney’s (Candidate for Ward 1 Alderman) son, Devin Kelly, in response to the recent revelations that Tierney had been cited for shoplifting in the past. Tierney also addressed the incidents in a letter published last week.

Gavin Buckley - Democrat for Mayor

Elly Tierney, Candidate for Ward 1 Alderman

Perhaps there is no one better equipped to speak to a mother’s qualities than her own son. 26 years and 6 months ago, my mother gave birth to me in a hospital in Washington, D.C., ushering me into a life filled not only with love and grace but also, as residents of Annapolis are coming to know, with its own share of trauma. I am not writing this piece to disavow the people and party running against my mother, but to give my own intimate and necessary share of insight toward my mother’s strength and struggle.

The recent unearthing of my mother’s negative and unlawful actions have been difficult for me to endure, not simply because, as a son, it is painful to hear anyone speak ill of my mother, but rather because it calls to mind memories of my childhood. As my mother gracefully attested to in this very paper, we experienced our own share of pain as a family. I was there when my parents divorced and there in the aftermath, in that strange phase of rebuilding and relearning that happens to a family in such moments. Perhaps some of you reading this know what that is like. I was there when my mother, as she says, self-medicated with alcohol. I was there, too, though, when she made the conscious and moral decision to recognize her own failings and take every necessary step to rebuild her life.

For all of my childhood, my mother worked construction. She was a woman in a man’s world. She took me to construction sites and I swelled with pride seeing my own mother in a hardhat surrounded by these big, often burly men. They treated her with respect because she had worked her way into that position. We piled into the massive shovels of bulldozers and took pictures. She pointed high up to the very tops of those swaying cranes and told me what such workers endured in their tiny little quarters day after day. She knew the inner workings of a world that is so often not associated with women. And she knew it because she lived it and loved it and worked for it.

If you ever see my mother wearing sandals, you might notice a massive scar along her ankle. This is because, while working on a heavy construction site, she fell from a steel beam and snapped her bones. Even this didn’t shy her away from that world. As a child, I remember waking to the sound of my mother leaving our house to exercise with weights at the nearby park. I remember her challenging a Marine to a pull-up contest and winning.

I say all of this because negative news often detracts from our ability to see the underlying strength in people. As humans, it is easier for us to label people by their flaws than it is to label them by their goodness, simply because flaws tend to cast a stronger, more descriptive shadow over us. I am not trying to be romantic. I understand the importance of the recent news that has come to light about my mother. I understand that she has chosen to run for office and to represent people, people who have every right to know everything about those they are choosing to elect. I am here, then, to give you more to know.

The trauma that my mother spoke about recently was real. I was there. It was painful to feel my own family come apart, and we all responded in different ways to the loss of what we knew as our family, to the future loss of parents and grandparents, and more. There are things I myself am not proud of, moments when I retreated from my mother and father and chose to respond to such trauma with silence or reservation. What the divorce and ensuing pain taught me, though, is the resilient and graceful strength of my mother, strength that often manifests itself outside of the public eye.

When my mother made the decision to step aside from her job, move to Annapolis, and pursue her longstanding dream to own an inn, I could not have been more scared and proud. I was scared because I wanted her to succeed and couldn’t stand the thought of her failing. I was proud because her decision marked a point in her life when she decided to follow her dreams, to take control. The two shoplifting incidents occurred at this point in her life, a point of flux and loss and instability. She has spoken about this better than I can, but what she has not spoken about is how, in the aftermath of these incidents, she has made every recourse to atone and to move forward, forever changed and forever stronger. She has built an honest home in Annapolis and a successful business. She has become a dedicated neighbor, and, more importantly, a beautiful mother. Currently, I live in New York City, where I teach at the City College of New York and run an afterschool program for high school students. I owe so much of who I am and what I do to my mother, to the inspiration that comes from her hard work, to her own ability to reflect and change that I am lucky has rubbed off on me.

So yes, you, as people blessed with the ability to choose your representatives, can choose to judge my mother. I, if you can believe me, judged her first. And I judged her often. And yet she has always offered a resilience and passion for change that moves me daily. I have never met anyone with such a committed and consistent passion for good – of self, of family, of community – than her. This country was founded on the ability to make ourselves new, and people sometimes forget that making oneself new does not mean letting go of the past. Rather, it means understanding the past, taking responsibility for the past, and learning from the past. My mother has done all three of these things, and more. In the years after these two incidents, she has proven herself to be a beautiful friend, a strong businesswoman, and a committed and grace-filled mother. You can ask me. You can ask my brother. You can ask anyone who has stayed at her inn.

But what more can we ask of people than to apologize for when they do wrong and to make amends, both of oneself and to the world? My mother did this long ago. I have been there the whole time, have seen what real sorrow and what real, true atonement look like. I have seen, too, the very human act of my mother saying I am sorry, saying I will do better, saying I love you, and then doing and loving as such. I have seen it on the most intimate of levels. And I believe in her, because together, we have been through so much. If you are reading this, you can probably relate. I do not doubt you have been through your own ordeals, private and public, and I do not doubt that they are complicated, painful, and filled with their own trials and moments of overcoming. To be human is to shoulder these moments and then, if possible, to continue onward, trying, just simply trying.

I know that my mother entered this political arena – one of power, money, press, and people – of her own accord. I know that she knows full well what comes with that: the responsibility to you, to herself, to her past. I am not asking you to vote for her, to forgive her, to do whatever it is you want or don’t want to do. I am only asking you to understand that the woman she is now is the summation of many moments and experiences, both well-lived and not. We are almost always made stronger because of our failings, especially when we face them and acknowledge them. You, reading this, are stronger for all you have been through and owned and taken responsibility for. I am a better son for all the moments when I have failed. And my mother is a stronger person now, beyond dedicated to serving you and this community. Not a day goes by when she does not talk about it. It is the joy of my life to see her doing what she is doing now, facing all of this head-on, with grace. It is the utmost, truest joy. And I am the proudest son.

Devin Kelly, New York

Severn Bank



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