William Kelly, former longtime mayor of Asharoken, dies at 73

Mayor William Kelly of Asharoken is shown at

Mayor William Kelly of Asharoken is shown at his home overlooking the Long Island Sound on June 18, 2008. (Credit: Newsday / Deborah S. Morris, File)

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William H. Kelly, the colorful and outspoken former mayor of Asharoken known for his quick wit and trademark cigar, died April 6 in Williamsburg, Va. He was 73.

Kelly was mayor of the North Shore village from 1982 to 2008. In 26 years in office, Kelly was challenged only twice.

"During that time, his steadfast and unwavering support for the village earned Asharoken the nickname of being 'small but powerful,' " Mayor Greg Letica said in a statement. "Bill's tireless efforts and devotion to the village laid the groundwork for making Asharoken the wonderful community it is today."

Some of Kelly's contributions included enlarging village hall and repaving Asharoken Avenue. He also fought for a sand restoration project for area beaches.

Kelly served as president of the New York State Conference of Mayors in 1988 and president of the Suffolk County and Tri County Village Officials Associations in 1989.

He made a failed bid for county executive in 1991. In 1993, he was defeated on the Conservative line when he ran for Huntington Town supervisor against eventual winner Frank Petrone.

"Bill would look at a problem and would not give up until it was resolved," Petrone said. "He also always had a very good relationship between me and my administration."

A voracious reader, Kelly had a personal library of 6,000 books, and was a history buff with particular affection for the Civil War, according to his public obituary. Kelly was a lifelong Kiwanian who received the Legion of Honor for 30 years of service, the obituary noted.

Born in upstate Kingston, Kelly received a degree in electrical engineering from Villanova University and a master's degree in economics from Georgetown University. He started a high-technology equipment-leasing company, WHK Leasing, in 1976.

In 2006, he was stripped of membership in the Northport Yacht Club after being accused of sexually harassing a club employee and fondling two female members. A fourth woman said she was forced to hit Kelly after he touched her in an inappropriate manner.

The controversy became an issue in the 2006 mayor's race, which Kelly won.

Kelly sued to be reinstated to the yacht club, but the New York State Supreme Court Appellate Division upheld a lower-court ruling that the club had the right to expel Kelly.

He lost the 2008 election to Patricia Irving. He moved to Williamsburg five years ago with his wife, Ann, and their two children.

In addition to his wife of 18 years, Kelly is survived by a daughter, Morgan, and a son, Kevin, all of Williamsburg; and two brothers, J. Terence and Jeffrey, of Kingston.

A service was held Thursday in Williamsburg, where he was interred.

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