The Panhandle Area Development District will be looking for new leadership.

The PADD board of directors Thursday authorized advertising for a replacement for Executive Director Jeff Kelley, who will be retiring June 30. The retirement date coincides with PADD’s fiscal year.

“I thought that would be an appropriate date to do that,” Kelley said, “and it’s also kind of ironic that it was exactly 40 years ago, June 30, 1980, that I started working my first day at a real job.”

Kelley has been the director at PADD since November 2015 and has been with the organization for 22 years, starting Feb. 16, 1988, in marketing. PADD will begin advertising for a replacement with the goal of having a new director in place in time to work alongside Kelley and learn some of the intricacies of the job for 30 days or so.

In retirement, Kelley plans to spend time with his wife, Katy, and visit their grandkids in Colorado more often.

“The line I always give is that this is the first time I’ve ever retired, so I don’t know what I’m gonna do,” Kelley said, indicating that he will also continue doing some part-time work for KNEB Radio on sports events. “Beyond that, I really don’t know. My wife was a school teacher, and she has been retired going on three years. It’ll give us a little more time together. We’ve got some grandkids over on the Front Range of Colorado. Hopefully, we’ll get down to Lincoln a little bit more often and see the Huskers.”

Kelley said he has been rewarded by being able to work with the different communities that PADD serves.

“Working with them doing different infrastructure projects, new streets, new water systems, those types of things,” Kelley said. “We’ve done a lot of comprehensive plans for communities. That kind of gives them a road map as to where they’re at, where they’ve been, where they’re at and where they can go in the future.”

The biggest result PADD has seen is in the owner-occupied housing rehabilitation area.

“I think in the time that I’ve been with PADD, we’ve probably rehabbed more than 100 homes throughout the 11 counties of the Panhandle, so that’s been really rewarding,” he said. “It’s a good program that allows people to get funding to have their homes rehabbed or brought up to code, bringing the electrical up to code, making the homes more efficient, more safe. That’s really rewarding when a lot of the applicants were elderly people who didn’t have the means to do that. The way the program worked is it was a five-year forgivable loan. If they stay in the home for five years, they don’t owe any of it back. It was a good program, and it also improved the housing stock in the Panhandle.”

Kelley said throughout Nebraska there is a lack of affordable housing and the housing stock is aging, so the rehabilitation program was useful in bringing many of those older homes up to code with the demand for more electricity than the houses were built for.

Kelley said PADD does a lot of grant writing and loan fund management for communities and businesses in the Panhandle to promote growth in the area. He cited Mark Ferrari Specialty Coffee in Oshkosh, NexGen Outfitters in Sidney and McKinney Manufacturing in Mitchell as a few of the businesses that have been helped in the process.

“It’s been all kinds of different businesses throughout the Panhandle, so I think that’s something that’s been positive,” Kelley said.

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Mark McCarthy is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9049 or via email at

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