Joanna Kelley

Candidate Bio


Joanna is the founder of Cup of Joe cafe & bar in downtown Portsmouth and New Hampshire native. Joanna is passionate about non profit and advocacy work in the state. She grew up primarily with her grandparents and as a ward of the state. She is one of the founders of The New England BIPOC cultural festival and serving board member for many organizations including: The Seacoast African American Cultural center, Strawbery Banke Musuem, 603 Foward foundation and The Chase Childrens Home. Joanna is the Assistant Mayor of Portsmouth serving her first term; having been the first African American elected to Portsmouth City Council and the first African American Assistant Mayor in the state of New Hampshire.
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Why I'm Running

I’m running for Re-election for the same reasons I ran for the first time in 2019 - because I love this little city of ours. I know that I add something special to the way that our city operates and plans for the future. 

As a small business owner and someone who works another job on the side, I understand the day-to-day financial struggles and sometimes sacrifices that it takes to stay in the community I love. 

I will never be the one to claim I can solve all of our community issues. Why? It’s simple - those are all group efforts. No one person can solve it and I’m just looking to be a player on the team that moves that wheel forward.

What I have always tried to be though is somebody who's committed to listening to the difficult parts, having the real conversations, and taking the bull by its horns. 

I think everyone running can agree with one thing; you wouldn't do this if you didn't love it here. I hope we can all agree that we want good schools, safe roads, and a welcoming community.  I believe in focusing aggressively on figuring out how we can increase below market rate housing, that includes the sometimes uncomfortable conversations within our own neighborhoods. 

I believe in working to diversify our community, which means the uncomfortable conversation of how we involuntarily exclude people.

I believe in supporting our schools and teachers, which means discussing budgets and adequate funding. 

I believe in supporting the people that keep us safe, keep our roads clear and help run our city, which means making sure as a community we are paying livable wages.

I believe in making sure that we have a Portsmouth that understands that every person who chooses to live here, whether that be five days ago or 50 years ago, plays a pivotal role in who we are as a community.  That means we cannot discount the voice of the younger generation or segment of us who are renters. 

I believe we have to take climate change conversations and turn them into climate action. I want Prescott Park to be here in 100 years and not underwater. I want green space for my future children to run around in and trees for them to catch shade on a hot summer day. 

We want to keep our city alive, vibrant, and working. 

For long-term planning, we need young people to be involved in the conversation and right now, I’m looking to be one of those younger people on the forefront.

I love nothing more than having a conversation with my neighbor who's been here for 50 years and thinking about how in 37 more years, when I’m 72, I’ll have the honor to say that I helped make the city I love what it was and opened the door a little bit more for endless future possibilities.

Candidate Night

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Candidate Links

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Position On Issues

Did not respond.

The questions we asked:

A comprehensive housing market study for the Portsmouth Housing Authority identified unmet demand for more than 3,000 additional housing units in our city, mostly for rental units. The study also pointed out that almost 50% of Portsmouth residents live in rented homes. Renters effectively pay a share of the owner’s property taxes. But while property owners, especially those in desirable parts of the city, have benefitted from astonishing rises in their home equity, renters — through no fault of their own — have not shared in the wealth creation. Just the opposite: as rents and the cost of living rise steadily, renters are more cost-burdened every year. You aspire to represent this huge constituency. 
Question #1: How should the city address the specific needs of renters?

The next generations will either benefit or suffer from the policies we enact today regarding climate change, sustainability, and the move from fossil fuels to clean energy. 
Question #2: Do you accept that urgent measures are required and, if so, how aggressive should the city be in addressing the crisis?

Records show that the top complaint from Portsmouth neighborhoods for decades has been drivers speeding on their streets. The city has begun implementing traffic calming measures. Changes to infrastructure are the single most effective way to address the issue. Drivers often object at first, but the measures have proven effective. At the same time, the city is doing more to accommodate residents who would rather walk or bike. 
Question #3: What kinds of initiatives would you support that further calm traffic and make more of Portsmouth safer for residents on foot or bike?