Hello. My name is Paul Kellem. Many of you know me as Coach Kellem. My story is simple. I am a lifelong resident of Merritt Island. I mean that literally. My mother was hanging clothes out to dry and she went into labor with me. There was no time to get to the hospital, so I was born here on the island 53 years ago. My mother had 3 children when my father was killed by gun violence. My grandparents stepped up to help raise me and my siblings. My grandfather, some of you all may remember him as Mr. Jabo, became the man I would idolize because he taught me life lessons that I carry with me to this day. Honesty, responsibility, and being a man of your word are things he drilled into me when we would get up at 6am and go take care of Mrs. Mary Deloach’s property.
I thought the world of my grandfather and didn’t think I would hold another man in such high regard until I met Coach Odom. If you grew up on Merritt Island you remember how important it was to be a Mustang football player. Well triple those feelings and that’s how I felt. In fact, I have to give special recognition to Leon Bright, Waldo Williams, and Jimmy Black for showing me the passion and spirit it takes to be a great Mustang football player. So, when I got the chance to volunteer for the team I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled to get the chance to coach junior varsity with Coach Odom and Coach Meade and eventually be promoted to the varsity coaching staff. I was very thankful for the opportunity to be able to teach hundreds of young men the same values my grandfather taught me.
After I left coaching, I needed a good job to support my family so a friend recommended getting a job at the port with the Longshoreman. I started helping load and unload bags from cruise ships. After a few years, I moved up in the Longshoreman to be an executive board member and helping to work with the port vendors, contractors, and other labor organizations at the port. I am currently the financial sec from the Longshoreman’s union where I oversee budget and financials of millions of dollars, which includes payroll, pensions and other benefits.
My first time really seeing the importance of the port to the community, would be when my mother used to drive us down to the river in a green GMC Gremlin. We would walk across the oyster beds barefoot to get to our fishing spot. I would cast my little Zebco fishing reel and I would be lucky to catch sailor’s choice, if I caught anything that day. I was so happy to catch something. I would clean it and eat it as soon as I could. You could say I was getting a lesson in the importance of the environment to our community from those circumstances.
I am a proud father of 3 children, one boy and two girls, and I still live and reside on Merritt Island. I would be proud to be your next Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner for District 4. I have 17 years of experience working at the port building relationships with our vendors, handling difficult financial matters and solving problems, and finding solutions to balance budgets and working out fair and equitable labor contracts that benefit all parties. I have the best qualifications to be your port commissioner which is why I am asking for your vote in November. Vote for Coach Kellem!
Economy / Tourism
The Canveral Port is the 2nd busiest port behind Miami for cruise ships. That means hundreds of thousands of tourists come through the port every year, which helps churn our local economy with hotels, restaurants, and other tours of the area. All of that is a huge economice engine for the county that comes through the port. This year, the cruise industry has shown itself to be susceptible to the coronavirus outbreak and has been shut down for months and will come back slowly and differently than before. That obviously impacts the expected revenue cruise ships bring to our area when cruises are canceled for months at a time. The one thing I can look at the port and still see that it is operating is the cargo ships. That is important to note, because moving forward we want to make sure that we keep generating revenue through the port. As port commissioner I will work to bring more cargo ship operations to the port for more steady revenue and jobs for the community. We should entice cargo operators with better infrastructure to handle cargo ships and also to beautify the cruise terminal areas to enhance cruise tourism when it comes back. We need to stay the second highest cruise terminal in the United States and we can do that by enhancing the tourism experience.
Since Coronavirus has shut down small businesses and even shuttered some big businesses, the entire community has felt the pain of unemployment by those who lost their jobs in one way or another. We need to get our community working again. The best way to do that is to make improvements to the port to enhance the cruise tourism experience and to add infrastructure which will attract new cargo companies. This type of work would be the best economic boost and bring hundreds of jobs to local residents who are out of work. I will push that those jobs go to Brevard county residents so the income from those jobs resonates throughout the community.
Finally, our waterways are so important to the life we all share in this community. The tourism industry would not be what it is if our waterways were filled with green algae or trash. So, the health of our environment adds to the tourism revenue and the beauty of this area. I believe the port has the power to be a leader in protecting the quality of our ecosystem. By doing that other industries that thrive off tourism (hotel, restaurants, tour operators) will flourish. The port can be a leader in showing companies and other organizations the right way to protect the environment while also maintaining a busy and active port for business.