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Boston firefighter wins big union job

Ed Kelly stopped to visit firefighters after they extinguished a fire in Dorchester in 2005. George Rizer/Globe Staff/File/Boston Globe

A Boston firefighter is poised to become the No. 2 official in the international firefighters union after winning an election last month.

When he formally takes office next week, Ed “Edzo” Kelly, 42, will become an uncommonly young official to hold such a lofty post in the union, which wields national political influence. Raised in and still a resident of Neponset, Kelly – son, brother, grandson, cousin, and nephew of firefighters – rapidly climbed the ranks of organized labor after winning a 2005 election for the presidency of the local.

Kelly’s campaign for the International Association of Fire Fighters post erected a website (facebook.com/EdzoforIAFF) and he said he spent 18 months campaigning across the United States and Canada. He outlasted two other candidates, who ultimately dropped out. The international union claims more than 300,000 firefighters and paramedics as members.


Kelly said he has resigned his role as president as the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

Kelly’s public profile climbed during a bitter duel with then-Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino over the local union’s contract. He went on to become president of the statewide union in 2011.

In his acceptance speech at the union’s convention last month in Las Vegas, Kelly first poked fun at his Boston accent, then said the office had “emboldened me to fight harder than I ever had for our mission.”

“Making sure that we’re working safe is our priority number one,” Kelly said.

He also gave members an update on a family travail that became something of a local cause célèbre a few years back, his son’s battle with kidney cancer. Kelly pronounced Tommy a “happy, healthy, cancer-free, soon-to-be 7-year-old boy.”

Kelly said he will split time between Washington, D.C., and Dorchester, where his family will remain.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at jim.osullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.