meet kelli

My name is Kelli Dunaway – I’m a coal miner’s daughter and a single mom. and I’m seeking the Democratic nomination for the St. Louis County Council, District 2. This is the story of how I got to where I am today.

I get asked one question a lot: Who are you, and why should I vote for you?

That’s a fair question! Here’s my answer:

First and foremost, I am mom to Bella and Liam.

But beyond that, I am who I am because of all of my life experiences – as a working single mom here in St. Louis County, as the kid of a single mom in a dusty coal-mining town, as a broken-hearted girl who was told she’d never walk again, and as the small-town kid with a cane clawing her way through law school on the west coast.

We are all a stew of our life experiences, and I’m no different. And my experiences make me a great representative for you, and for this District.

I grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois, where my two younger brothers and I were raised by a coal-mining single mom. My senior year in high school, the car I was riding in rolled; I don’t remember the accident. What I do remember is waking up to a surgeon telling me I would never walk again.

I proved him wrong. When I couldn’t go back to high school because it wasn’t accessible for my wheelchair, I studied on my own at home. I graduated high school, then went on to community college, then went on to a four-year college. Through it all, I worked – and yes, I fought – to train my body to walk again.

I applied to law schools, holding my breath that I could see out my dream of going to law school in California.

And when I started law school, I walked through those doors with a cane. 

I am a walking, talking example of what happens when you don’t listen to the people who tell you give up. When you listen to your heart, and believe that with hard work and a fighting spirit you can make the impossible possible – and then start doing all of the gut-wrenching, sweaty, unglamorous work to make it happen.

Right now, there are a lot of things wrong in the world. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and people across our district and region have lost their jobs, their businesses, their security – their hope.

You might have lost those things, too. And you might feel like giving up because everything feels so impossible.

But I’m here to tell you – nothing is impossible. I’m living proof. We can get through this together, and I want to continue leading the way.

I became your Councilwoman in 2019 because I knew that the people of this district deserved a representative that understands what it means to be counted out and dismissed – and who’s used grit and determination to prove everybody wrong when it mattered the most.

Since becoming your Councilwoman I’ve been your champion. That’s why I’ve fought for our values by voting for prevailing wages that help our hard working men and women get paid what they deserve; an affordable housing trust fund that helps our neighbors stay in their homes; a red flag law to keep concealed guns out of the hands of domestic abusers – legislation that is literally saving lives; and updates to building codes that increase building safety and efficiency.

I’ve lived up to my word to make government accountable and transparent by Chairing the Special Committee on Oversight of COVID-19 Funding to ensure that our CARES Act grant is spent right, and that it gets to where it’s needed the most.

I hope I’ve shown you over the past year that I’m in this job to make sure that your priorities are heard at the St. Louis County Council. And that I may not go looking for a fight, but I don’t back down either – not when your interests are at stake. And that I’m the kind of leader you want to keep as your representative.

And, as always, I’d love to hear from you – whether you have a question for me or a comment to share. You can e-mail me at

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