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When You Know You Know, You Know?

Mayor Tim Kelly & Ginny Kelly Share Their Whirlwind Love Story

The home of Mayor Tim Kelly and his wife Ginny is reflective of the couple living in it: eclectic, inviting, warm, and comfortable. The beautiful historic home in Fort Wood is filled with a collection of art, acquired piece by piece from the Four Bridges Art Festival and local art galleries. Vibrant pops of color stand out against the stately oak moldings of the Greek Neo-Classical house, and it is here that we caught up with the couple to talk about their love story.

How did you meet?

GINNY: I had been at a trail race, and after the race some friends invited me to a Santa pub crawl. At the bar, Tim was sitting with a mutual friend who asked me to come over and say hi, and that was it!

MAYOR KELLY: It was definitely a love at first sight thing. We really haven’t been apart since.

How long were you together before you proposed?

MAYOR KELLY: It was a little over three months—March of the following year. We just decided to go to the courthouse to get married, and then we had a big reception. This is the second go-round for both of us, and we did a big Hatch Show Print invitation that said: “When you know you know, you know?” People thought we were crazy, but it has worked out for us.

GINNY: I will say, when you move into something that quickly, the first couple of years were really hard for us. My two stepsons are great, but they were teenagers at the time. Figuring that out was hard and navigating life as a new family was challenging. It took us working together and communicating to get through it.

How did you propose?

MAYOR KELLY: I got the ring, and it was burning a hole in my pocket. I was waiting to find a romantic moment, but we had talked about it from the very beginning. We knew it was something special from the jump, so when I got the ring, we were just at my place and I got down on one knee and did it right there. It being the second time around for us, I think we were just over the performative stuff and just ready to start our lives together. This was about us.

MAYOR KELLY CONTINUES: And then when we got married, we went down to the courthouse to just get the license. We went through the metal detector, and the cute little lady who was there said, “Y’all look like you’re going to get married!” We said, “We’re just here to get the license,” and the lady said, “Y’all should just go ahead and do it!” So, we did it! The pastor took us out to the lawn of the courthouse, and we got it done. It was the first day of Spring, so we thought, maybe this is just meant to be.

What are some things that worked for you as you blended your families?

GINNY: Communication. We have done this once, we know what not to do, and it’s still hard to have that vulnerability to really talk about how you feel without being guarded. Now we put it all out there, all the time.

MAYOR KELLY: You have to work hard to see things from the other person’s perspective as well. And again, with other family members involved, everyone has their own interests—the best advice I ever got was “Patience.” Learn to be patient and think about the end-state you want, which is peace and happiness with everybody, and then keep moving forward.

What do you hope your children see when they look at your relationship?

MAYOR KELLY: Partnership. What you need through life is someone who will have your back. It’s not easy to find. We’re moving away from old strict gender roles where the woman is pushing a broom all day to a true partnership where your spouse is truly your best friend. I hope that’s what they see.

Where are some of your favorite places to go on a date night here in Chattanooga?

GINNY: We love Easy Bistro, The Rosecomb, Sidetrack, and Main Street Meats. We kind of go to the same places. We also love the Boathouse.

MAYOR KELLY: We like Wooden City a lot, too. They made a beautiful post about why they came to Chattanooga and what was special about the city, and it affirmed all the reasons I ran for Mayor. So, we felt like we owed it to them to try it out, and they knocked it out of the park.