While Jane Sellman is right that the phrase working mother is redundant, there are many mothers in The Leader area who wear a number of hats – both at home, and in the workplace and community. Among the most active is surely Heights mother of three Brie Kelman who currently serves on the board of the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission, where she is both helping preserve historic properties in the city and helping other young families follow the law to make a home in these protected areas.
Pretty ironic for someone who never imagined that she would be living in Houston. A Kansas City native and industrial engineer, Kelman was recruited by ExxonMobil out of college to come to the Bayou City.
“Houston’s reputation was not great ten years ago,” said Kelman. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
Another surprise was meeting New Zealand native Scott Kelman at a Young Professionals in Energy happy hour in 2008.
“He had just moved here two weeks before,” she said. “I had always thought I’d marry someone from high school that I saw at a reunion.”
Instead, Scott proposed with a picnic in the backyard of their first 1920 Heights home that the couple bought in 2009 and lived in until 2014. The reason for a move? Something that was always part of Kelman’s hopes and plans – Jack, currently four months, Georgie, three years, and Oliver, who is about to turn five.
“I always knew I wanted kids, but I don’t think either of us had a number,” said Kelman.
When looking around the Heights for a bigger home, Kelman was put off by the price tag of many of the ready to move in houses. Instead, she found herself drawn to a fixer upper.
“I wanted to stay in the area and renovating a historic house always sounded like something fun to do,” said Kelman. “I’m a more technically minded person and it has given me an outlet to be creative too.”
Remodeling her home in a historic, protected part of the Heights also brought her in contact with the Houston Archaeological and Historical Commission. The Kelmans were denied by the commission with their first set of plans, something The Leader wrote about in 2013.
“I learned a lot about the process through the experience,” said Kelman. “I think it helps me now that I serve on the HAHC. I can give the perspective of someone with three kids, who has been through the process first hand.”
After the Kelmans did get approval, construction started in June of 2013 and they moved in on January 30 of 2014, five days after Georgie was born. Currently on maternity leave with Jack, Kelman is enjoying nesting and nursing. She also chairs the Houston Heights Association Community Improvement Award each year, and serves as Secretary on the Board of Public Trust, to which she was appointed by former mayor Annise Parker. The board, which was formed by Houston City Council in 1915, reviews grant applications for projects which benefit Houston’s citizens.
When she returns to ExxonMobil, Kelman will have a new role as the company likes to cycle around its employees to diversify their experience. Before she left for leave, Kelman was working on a natural gas project in Alaska.
“I’ve had seven jobs in ten years there,” said Kelman. “You have to learn quickly when you get your new role. I like it once I get over the change hump.”
The Kelmans don’t employ a nanny. Instead they are each there to pick up the slack for the other when there is work travel involved. A bonus for Brie, is that her husband is the cook of the family, or as she describes him – “a magic person.”
“He’s the most wonderful cook and it’s his subconscious hobby,” she said. “Before him, I was rotating Subway and grocery store sushi for dinner.”
That boon, combined with her utilization of Amazon and a slew of iPhone apps, allows Kelman to spend more time with her family.
“It’s a walking cliché but what I love best about being a mother is my kids,” she said. “They all have their little quirks.”