URI appoints executive director of external relations and communications

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North Kingstown resident has extensive public policy record in R.I.

KINGSTON, R.I. – January 14, 2015 – Kelly K. Mahoney, who served as policy director for Clay Pell’s gubernatorial campaign, director of policy for former Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and policy director for the Rhode Island Department of Administration, has been named executive director of external relations and communications at the University of Rhode Island, effective January 12.


URI President David M. Dooley made the announcement today to hire the North Kingstown resident and URI graduate of the class of 2002. Mahoney succeeds Kerrie Bennett, who served in that post in an interim capacity until June 2014 when she left to take a senior leadership position with Delta Dental.


“Kelly has a comprehensive and deep knowledge of the workings of state government, from the intricacies of the budget process, to big picture initiatives, such as economic development and improving our educational system, which will help move our state and its flagship university forward,” Dooley said. “We are proud that she earned her undergraduate degree in marine affairs from URI and that she is one of the leading public policy experts in the state. She has great enthusiasm and talent and has worked hard to develop relationships at the state and federal levels that will serve URI well.”


In her role at the University, Mahoney reports to the president and is a member of his senior leadership team. She will serve as lead University liaison to the Rhode Island General Assembly, Office of the Governor, the Rhode Island Board of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education, other governmental agencies and entities, and the U.S. Congressional Delegation. She will also serve as coordinator and University representative in relationships with business, labor and other organizations, developing initiatives that seek to build and diversify the economic base of Rhode Island, advance the missions of the University of Rhode Island, and provide new opportunities for students and graduates.


As a member of the senior leadership team, Mahoney will participate in the development of strategic initiatives, policies, and projects. She will oversee an integrated approach to internal and external community relations, marketing and branding, and communications.


“I bring my government relations and policy experience to the University, and will work hard to add value to everything that is happening at URI,” Mahoney said. “I know how state government runs and how to get things accomplished. While working in the governor’s office, I learned the importance of execution and implementation. I am so excited to have the opportunity to learn here, and to help the University fulfill its mission.”


From April 2014 through November 2014, Mahoney was policy director for Pell’s campaign, and before that served two years as policy director for Chafee. From February 2011 to May 2012, she was policy director for the state Department of Administration. Previously, she held deputy and assistant director of policy positions for nearly eight years in the Rhode Island Senate.


During her time at the Department of Administration, Mahoney spearheaded a study of higher education on behalf of Director Richard Licht for the General Assembly.


“I worked with senior leadership at URI, Rhode Island College, the Community College of Rhode Island and Board of Education,” Mahoney said. “It was a fast-paced team that met bi-weekly over five months. That work really opened my eyes to how much was going on at our public institutions. As an alumna, and since my first job was at URI, I always wanted to come back. It was just finding the right opportunity.”


”When I applied to colleges, URI was my first choice. There was no better place than URI for marine affairs,” said Mahoney, who earned her master’s degree in leadership from Northeastern University. “URI had a tremendous sense of community, where I connected with great mentors and everything URI had to offer.


“On Monday when I walked by the Memorial Union, I took a photo and sent it to all of my college roommates. I made friends for life at URI.”


She and her husband, Joseph, have two children, Connor, 7, and Grady, 5. She is a native of Grafton, Mass.


Photo by Mike Salerno photography