Former Alaska state Sen. Tim Kelly, 65, dies in sleep

Politician represented both Eagle River and East Anchorage

Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Former state Sen. Tim Kelly died Monday at his home in Anchorage, just two days after turning 65.

His wife, Lisa Nelson, told The Anchorage Daily News he died in his sleep of heart and lung problems. Kelly served two years in the state House and 22 years in the Senate, choosing not to run for re-election in 2000.

He worked as a lobbyist after his years in office, representing medical and insurance clients.

A Republican, Kelly was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1976 on his second try. He moved to the Senate in 1978 when he won a race by five votes.

Kelly represented both Eagle River and East Anchorage as the election district lines moved over the years. He was elected Senate president in 1989.

Former aide Chris Nelson said Kelly became "the ultimate legislative mechanic ... an insider's insider" who knew how to moderate disputes and defuse prickly differences.

"Tim was a guy who absolutely loved the legislative process. He was one of the few people who knew how to end a legislative session so everybody walked away feeling they got something," said Nelson, who currently works for ESGR, a National Guard and Reserve support group.

In 1990, Kelly took a two-year break from the Legislature to mount an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. Voters returned him to the Senate in 1992 and 1996.

Kelly was born in 1944 in Sacramento, Calif. Before coming to Alaska in 1970, he worked as a legislative aide in California and Nevada. A former Marine, he served in the Alaska Air National Guard and military matters remained a focus throughout his legislative career.

Gov. Sean Parnell, who served in the Legislature with Kelly, and his wife Sandy called the family and issued a statement sending "thoughts and prayers to Lisa and the children during this painful time."

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