By Barney Blakeney
Since childhood Kelsey Willey has wanted to help children and families in distress. She witnessed family members go through a divorce and saw its impact on the children. That experience started her on a journey doing something that would help other families in similar situations. She chose the law as her vehicle.
A young woman who believes in preparing oneself to serve, the wife of Charleston attorney Roy Willey and mother of 18-month-old son Penn, Willey received her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Sociology/Pre-Law from Longwood University, and is a graduate of the Cormier Honors College. While at Longwood University she was president of her senior class and treasurer of the judicial board. She earned her Juris Doctorate from the Charleston School of Law in 2014 and while in law school was president of the Children’s Advocacy and Family Law Society, vice-president of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society, senator on the Student Bar Association, and a member of Phi Delta Phi honor society.
Willey started her law practice in 2015 and has served as a juvenile arbitrator for the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, as well as a Guardian ad Litem. She has assisted domestic violence victims as a volunteer with South Carolina Legal Services, is an active member of the Charleston County Bar Association, the South Carolina Association for Justice, and has been awarded by Charleston Pro Bono Legal Services for her volunteer work. She is admitted to practice in both the state and federal courts in South Carolina and focuses her law practice on probate law. She has practiced before more than half of South Carolina’s 46 probate courts.
Her experience and passion for the work motivates Willey to become Charleston County’s probate judge. “I found my niche in probate law and I think this is a good fit. After 24 years with the current administration, the probate court needs new energy, new ideas and a new perspective. And I have the legal training,” Willey noted. As an attorney, Willey brings professional know-how to the June 12 Democratic primary election she feels voters should consider.
And that know-how includes the practical administrative experience she’s gained running her own practice. Having practiced in South Carolina’s probate courts, Willey has seen what works and where improvements can be made. She has ideas for Charleston County Probate Court that go beyond merely holding the position. She wants to improve its function so it better serves people.
The probate court performs many complicated functions and impacts people’s lives in many ways, Willey notes. As a conduit for services and resources affecting individuals experiencing drug offenses in its Drug Court, mental health issues and heirs property concerns, Willey says she is best prepared to implement administrative ideas that move cases through the system faster while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the office and the individuals it serves.
As much as professional know-how and legal expertise, Willey’s candidacy brings to the election the heart of an attorney and administrator who is involved in the community. She serves on the board of the Center for Women, is a member of the Historic Rotary Club of Charleston, and the Junior League of Charleston where she has served in various capacities. Willey is a founding member of Emerge SC and has recently served as a volunteer professor at Trident Technical College, educating community members on the importance and intricacies of probate and estate planning.
Willey feels she’s the best qualified candidate to challenge an unopposed administration that has occupied the probate Court Judge office for nearly the past quarter century. “I’m the right candidate to challenge that machine,” she said.