By Judith Salkin
Google Kristen Kelly and what you mostly find are links to a country singer whose songs make her sounds like a borderline alcoholic. Or a psychologist who works with kids in L.A. Neither of which are the right Kristen Kelly.
The Kristen Kelly we’re talking about is the chick who helps to wake up the Coachella Valley as the sidekick of her on- and off-air partner, Casey Dolan on 93.7 KCLB’s “Casey in the Mornings.”
“He’s amazing,” she says of Dolan. “I love being on the air with him; we understand each other; he challenges me to be better and, hopefully, I challenge him, too.”
According to the station’s bio on Kelly, she was hired to “keep (Dolan) in line,” but it can sound more like a feeding-frenzy when the two jocks glom onto a news story and rip it to funny shreds. The best of the morning’s bits can be heard as sound bites throughout the day, they are so laughable.
The station’s propaganda machine also states “(Kelly’s) a huge fan of reality TV, music, and amazing sushi. On nights when there’s a UFC fight, you can find her at her favorite bar with a cold beer yelling at the TV for someone to finally beat Anderson Silva. Football is a must and she’d rather watch a hockey or basketball game live. It should also be noted that candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach mean nothing if you can’t make her laugh!”
While others may dream of being on the small screen, Kelly has always been driven toward radio. At least since she was a senior in high school back in Stroudsburg, Penn., a small town in the Pocono Mountains.
At the time, Kelly only had two classes she had to take to complete her HS requirements, and a lot of time for electives.
“I got an internship at one of the local radio stations working on the A.M. drive-time show,” she says of her “Intro to Airwaves” practical class. “It was great! I’d go in early and do two hours at the station, go to my classes and go back to the station because I just loved being there.”
For the Staten Island-born and Pennsylvania-raised Kelly, she’d found her life’s calling.
In college in Williamsport, another small Pennsylvania town, Kelly found herself at a five-station cluster where she worked as talk jock, on a country station, voice work and wherever they needed her.
While she’d started out as a communications major, a station manager changed her educational point of view.
“He asked me why I was a communications major,” she recalled. “I told him it was because I wanted to work in radio.”
Since she was already communicating on air, he suggested that she switch majors, which led Kelly to switch to a psychology major.
“After radio, that was what interested me,” she says of the switch. “It’s helped me in my career and I always figured that if I got bored with radio, I wanted to do something with psychology.”
In college, Kelly moved from the old mountains of Pennsylvania down the coast to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., one of the East Coast’s ultimate party towns.
“I loved it down there,” she says of the move. “I visited and just fell in love with the area.”
She found a job at local radio station, eventually ending up as the station’s traffic reporter.
“Who wouldn’t love a job like mine?” she says. “Somebody was paying me to talk and I have a lot to say! Why would I want to change?”
But several years in Florida reporting accidents and slowdowns and Kelly was looking for new adventures. “I’ve always been someone who loves challenging myself,” she says. “So I started looking at jobs and saw the one for KCLB.”
That was in 2010, and within 10 days of her interview at the station, Kelly had made the westward move to live and work in the Coachella Valley.
Settling in as Dolan’s on-air partner was relatively easy, she says. “We’re both pretty sarcastic and we both have the same basic sense of humor.”
The hardest part of becoming a team was syncing up together. “We had to learn when the other was done speaking so that we didn’t overlap,” she recalls. “We used hand signals, but within a couple of weeks, we were in sync.”
It took a bit longer for romance to blossom, but that too was organic. “I don’t really know when it started to change,” she says. “But Casey is really fun to be friends with and to hang out with. One day I realized that I was thinking about him a lot after work; it just sort of evolved.”
As for that degree in psychology, while Kelly has no intentions of giving up her day job, it has come in handy. Up until a couple of months ago, she worked a second job as Gino LaMont’s afternoon nanny for his son Hudson and recently started working with SafeHouse of the Desert, where she works as the donations officer to raise money for the organization that helps homeless and runaway kids to transition from the streets back into society.
“One of the things I love about being here in this community is the way so many people come together to help others,” she says. “When I decided that I wanted to find a place where I could really help, I asked my listeners and SafeHouse kept coming up. It worked with kids and that was something I wanted to do.”
Kelly can relate to what these kids have been through to potential donors. “I think it helps because I can be empathetic to the cause,” she says.
For Kelly, the move to the valley has been a good one. Having grown up in the Northern Appalachian Mountains, she finds the jagged peaks of our surrounding mountains inspiring.
She marries her love of hiking and photography by exploring the local trails and taking sunset shots. “Sunrises in Florida are amazing, but the mountains here are so different,” she says. “And no two sunsets are ever the same; the colors are amazing. I did a sunset hike up to the cross (in Palm Desert) and got some incredible shots tonight.”
As for her future, Kelly can see herself settling down and raising a family here in the desert. “You know, I’ve been thinking about that recently,” she says. “It’s not such a bad idea. It’s a great place for a family.”