After 40 years in property management, Diana Kelly has seen it all, working with all kinds of people in all kinds of housing and nearly every situation imaginable.
Kelly is current vice president, partner and a board member at Maloney Properties, a progressive leader in the property management industry for over 35 years. Maloney Properties is the largest women-owned property management company in New England. Kelly oversees a varied portfolio of both conventional and assisted rental housing managed by the company.
Kelly has been the living embodiment of the famous Mahatma Gandhi quote – “Be the change you wish to see in the world” – throughout her more than four decades working in the field of housing throughout Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, according to Mark Maloney, principal at MMI Investments, in his nomination of Kelly for a Women of FIRE award.
“She has been a mentor, an activist and a colleague to so many and has done so in such a quiet and dignified manner that is very much in keeping with her own unique style, yet all the while working on themes and in situations where advocacy, empowerment and social justice for individuals are important and her desire and her motivation to make a difference in the lives of her community is extraordinary,” Maloney said.
Kelly was well into her student career at Simmons in the 1970s and had no interest in housing when fate intervened.
“My original plan was to become a math teacher,” she said. “I love working with numbers and people. I like helping the folks who work with me solve problems. Then I got an internship at the Boston Model Cities Administration. I met the director of housing development, Barbara Brower (Conover). After a year I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go to grad school. Barbara suggested I try property management. I kind of fell into it and never got out.”
More than 40 years later, Kelly said she loves what she does and thinks it takes a particular kind of person to have a successful career in property management.
“It takes flexibility and a willingness to always see the positive in every situation,” she said. “At a regional manager’s level, we solve problems and help the folks who report to us work through issues. You have to have a can-do attitude. There’s no question you need to have the skillset, but a positive attitude can get you through a lot.”
Kelly has served on numerous housing committees and groups and received multiple awards for her work. She said she’s pleased with the progress she has seen in affordable housing over her career, though there is still work left to do.
“The work that we do has changed,” Kelly said. “The pendulum has swung from having very little affordable housing to a time when there is more affordable housing being built. Folks living in horrendous housing situations should be able to access safe, sanitary affordable housing.”