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Former PNC Mortgage Exec Running for Mayor

Former PNC Mortgage Exec Running for Mayor

Kelly Downard in Louisville race

March 28, 2005


The mortgage business prepared Kentuckian Kelly Downard for politics.“There are a lot of similarities between selling a mortgage and politics,” said Downard, a former mortgage executive and current Louisville city councilman who has announced his candidacy for mayor of Kentucky’s largest city.

“It seem to me the biggest key is the successful people are the one who beat the streets, who work from 5 to 8 at night, who work on Saturdays and Sundays,” Downard said in an interview with “They get the (mortgage) business in politics they get the votes.”

Downard, a Republican who once headed mortgage operations for PNC Bank, will need all the political skills he can muster for his 2006 challenge to longtime Democratic Mayor Jerry Abramson.

Abramson, who has been in office since 1986, has an 81 percent approval rating and is known in Louisville as “Mayor Jer” and “Mayor for Life.”

A Republican hasn’t been mayor of Louisville since 1965.

Downard acknowledges the race will be tough. But he said the Louisville Metro Council, which he is president of, has an approval rating of 73 percent.

Both polls were done by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

“It’s going to be a 19 month campaign,” Downard said. “I know the mayor is popular…but I’ve been in business, I’ve been CEO of a bank in town, I know a lot about real estate and I know a lot of people.”

Abramson could not be reached to comment. He reportedly told the Courier-Journal he welcomes the challenge.

“Any individual who wants to sign their name on the dotted line, pay the price to file and get into the debate is welcome,” Abramson reportedly said. “I think I have the best vision for the community, I think I can articulate that.”

Downard said he will run a platform that includes attracting more jobs to Louisville and creating a business environment that entices young professionals from leaving town to work in other cities.

“If you compare our city to (Cincinnati), Indianapolis, Nashville, Memphis…we’re behind them all in attracting jobs and keeping young college graduates in town,” he said.

Downward will draw on his extensive background in the financial and mortgage industries during his campaign.

Downard was president of Citizens Fidelity Mortgage Co. before joining PNC Mortgage Co., a unit of PNC Bank. He was president of PNC Mortgage from 1987 to 1992.

The company had about 300 employees and “did a mix” of mortgage loans originated through corresponding banks and mortgage companies, Downard said.

At the time Downard was running the unit, it serviced a mortgage portfolio of about $600 million to $700 million a year, he said.

Downard left PNC in the mid 1990s to start a community development bank, the Louisville Community Development Bank. It was designed to increase home ownership and business opportunities in Louisville’s low-income west end neighborhoods.

Ironically, he and Abramson worked together in starting the venture and to this day consider one another friends.

As part of that effort, Downard was also chief executive officer of the Louisville Real Estate Development Co., an affiliate of the community bank.

Since it was founded the bank has made more than $41 million in loans, mostly to small businesses. But it has also made mortgage loans or helped provide financing for the construction of more than 400 homes and 600 apartments.

“What makes the difference in the mortgage business are the contacts,” Downard said. “You have to be the first person to find the buyer. Everybody has similar products. But a good originator is making contacts with the Realtors and others in the business to find the buyers.”

Patrick Crowley is a political reporter and columnist and former business writer for The Cincinnati Enquirer. Email Patrick at:

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