Kaley O’Kelley is in the middle of a conversation when a coworker knocks on the door in ABC15’s newsroom and hesitantly enters.
She welcomes O’Kelley back to the Valley after spending several years away. O’Kelley is moved by every kind gesture because she’s just as thrilled to return to ABC15 as a morning show anchor.
“I feel like I grew up in this building,” she says.
O’Kelley got her Valley TV start on ABC15 Arizona in 2003, becoming one of the Valley’s most popular anchors during her 12 years in the market. Most recently, O’Kelley worked in Dallas as an evening anchor at the CBS station, KTVT. Now was the time to return because her children are young enough to make a fresh start.
“My kids are in kindergarten and first grade and it just felt like if we were going to make this move now is the time,” she says.
“Where I grew up, I started in kindergarten and went all the way through the fifth grade in the same school. We all went to the same middle school, the same junior high, and graduated from the same high school. I do think people are more mobile now, but I want my kids to grow up in the same community near grandma and grandpa.”
O’Kelley graduated from Pepperdine University north of Los Angeles. She landed her first job as a morning news anchor and weather forecaster at KYMA in Yuma, where she won an Associated Press award for investigative journalism.
O’Kelley went on to work in Santa Barbara, California, and San Diego before joining ABC15 Arizona in 2003. During her time at the station, she was a regular fill-in for the weekend edition of Good Morning America in New York. Before moving to Dallas, O’Kelley also spent five years as an anchor on KTVK in Phoenix.
O’Kelley is originally from East Wenatchee, Washington, and is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. She is a six-time Emmy Award-winning journalist. O’Kelley is also an entrepreneur who specializes in mobile app development and creating interactive digital media platforms.
ABC15 touted her return via a massive television campaign. When O’Kelley saw it for the first time, she cried.
“This is more than a job to me,” she says. “This is a lifestyle. We eat, sleep and breathe journalism. I call myself a recovering workaholic. I have kids, but it’s nice to be able to come back and be in my town and be a part of this community. I help share stories that matter to people I know and love. It just means so nice to me.
“When I saw the commercials, it felt like a big, warm, fuzzy hug.”
She didn’t dislike Texas. It just never felt like home.
“Texas was great,” she says. “It was wonderful, especially for our kids because it’s so family oriented. It wasn’t home. It never clicked for me. It never clicked.”
O’Kelley doesn’t regret any of her career decisions, she was just waiting for the right time to come back.
“I actually knew how many days I had been gone,” she says. “I came back here all the time. I had two surgeries here while I was gone. My parents are here. My family is here. My closest friends are here.
“Then there’s the foodie thing. This has exploded in the last three and a half years. There was great food here before, but now, amazing.”