by Joycelyne Fadojutimi
At age 24, Kelly Kinsey Overby found herself a widow with three small daughters to raise, but she was determined to do a great job of it. Ashley, Jackie and April were her babies, and her commitment to them was total. Although at this time, Kelly had only a GED she went straight to work, and worked very, very hard. First as a bank teller, which was a job for which her vocational education at Longview High School had prepared her. She did her best but kept reaching for more.
“I landed a job at Haverty’s Furniture store and began learning data entry and how to use a computer,” she says. “From there I continued learning more and more, and a few years later went to work at LeTourneau University where I was able to attend college for free.”
The credentials she earned there led to her admission to the Longview Economic Development Corporation (LEDCO) in 2007, where she worked her way up to her present position as director of Industry Retention and Expansion. She does a fine job of encouraging the growth and proliferation of Longview businesses and assisting them with various workforce needs. Her drive to help others springs from her own unfortunate background.
“During my first two marriages, I suffered years of physical and mental abuse,” she says. “Once I broke out, I found a desire to help other young women in bad situations.”
She started out by opening her home to young ladies who sought refuge from domestic violence or any other kind of unfortunate circumstances. She provided them with both sanctuary and instruction on life skills, self-sufficiency and the need for education and its resultant independence. She is not walking alone, either.
High school football brought her and husband Bill Overby together. Her grandson and Bill’s son were teammates on the Diana team. Her son-in-law introduced them. Bill’s wife had died two years earlier, and their shared grief drew them together. Eight months later they were married. For Kelly, domestic bliss was a long-awaited blessing.
When her parents were married, her father was 18, and her mother just 15.
“My brother was born when she was 16, and she had me at 20,” she says. “My dad left us when I was almost five, and we did not see him much after that. My mom did her best to care for us, but she only had an eighth-grade education.”
Sometimes Kelly and her brother lived with their grandparents when finances left them destitute. She changed schools 13 times before starting ninth grade. She credits
this nomadic lifestyle with teaching her how to make friends easily. Despite the challenges of her childhood, it did teach her to overcome obstacles, to accept and overcome life’s inevitable hard knocks with strength, joy and compassion for others. To this day she draws from the hurdles of her younger days.
“Most of my values were taught to me by my grandmother and grandfather,” she says. “They taught me to have faith in God and to be kind to others.”
Her grandmother worked hard as an elementary school cafeteria manager. Kelly was touched by how her grandmother was careful to be at work on time every morning so the children under her care would have hot biscuits. She would even purchase clothes for less fortunate pupils and help them clean up in the cafeteria bathroom.
“She died at the early age of 58 with cancer, and that was the worst day of my life,” says Kelly. “She is the reason I want to give back to my community and do more.”
It is not just her community she strives to help, either.
“I am blessed with three daughters who care as deeply about others as I do,” she says. “They have been my inspiration to always do better whether in my community or for myself and family.”
She worked hard to prepare herself for her life of unselfish service, enrolling in college as a thirty-six-year-old freshman at LeTourneau University. Four years later she pulled down her master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. At the Oklahoma University Economic Development Institute, she polished her economic development knowledge. From the Community Development Institute, she took her certification as a Professional Certified Economic Developer, (PCED). Her resume` is long and inspiring.
* LEDCO Industry Retention and Expansion Director, Talent Recruiter, Lead Generator, Workforce Development Director
- Haverty’s Furniture administrative assistant
- Thacker/Davis Architects
- LeTourneau University
- East Texas Baptist University
- Good Shepherd Medical Center
She has held down her current, LEDCO position for 12 1/2 years. Landing this job was something of a coincidence.
“I applied for a job someone told me about,” she says. “I had no idea what economic development was. Now I love it.”
Her tireless work ethic has led to her success, building working relationships with existing Longview businesses’ HR professionals, plant managers and others in leadership roles. She sniffs out their needs and toils to create collaboration in workforce development to fill talent needs and/or expansion.
“I love that I am making a difference in my community by creating jobs or assisting in creating education pathways to good-paying jobs,” she says.
She is so competent at and downright in love with her career she has a hard time
thinking of anything she does not like about it. She strives to find and create “jobs that will make it possible for people not to live in poverty. I take that very seriously.”
Hers is a labor of true righteous love. Her devotion to Jesus Christ and knowledge of His earthly ministry give her the best possible role model. She sees her hard ride to success as a God-given learning experience that she learned from and is determined to remember. She knows her example is one that can inspire others.
“I am a Christian and pray daily that what I am doing will make a difference in peoples’ lives,” she says. “I have to use those experiences to help others and to show others that you can survive and do better.”
Her volunteer work is another outlet for her thirst to give others a better life. She serves as board president of the Greater Longview United Way, is a member of the ACT State Council, and the Greater Longview Organization of Business and Education (GLOBE). In the past, she has served with Preservation Longview, the Rotary Club, and the Hannah House Maternity Home. Hers is a life of true fulfillment.
She and her cowboy Bill operate their farm in Diana where they spend time with their blended family of nine children and twelve grandchildren plus their friends. It is a perfect, beautiful setting for Kelly Kinsey Overby, a woman who radiates God’s love.
“I am a Christian and pray daily that what I am doing will make a difference in peoples’ lives. I use my experiences to help people and to show others that you can survive and do better.”