She once stood on the old BHS stage, belting out a song and delivering monologues that would rip an audience’s heart out. Now, she stands in a courtroom in front of a jury and pleads her cases. She is Kelley Martin Robertson, chief assistant district attorney for the Northeastern Judicial Circuit (Hall and Dawson counties).
Kelley is a 1995 graduate of Buford High School and the daughter of Lesa and the late Terry Martin. She came to Buford in her freshman year by way of Lanier Middle and Sugar Hill Elementary. She excelled in academics and was active in both athletics and the arts at BHS.
I asked Kelley which of the three “A’s” in AAA Excellence she felt she most represented while in high school. She replied, “It was probably a tie between arts and academics — both were extremely important to me. It was definitely not athletics — I was far more ‘mathlete’ than ‘athlete.’ In fact, I was recently looking at an old yearbook and was shocked to see that I received the PE award in ninth grade. I have no idea how that happened!”
Having known her back then, I am pretty sure it happened because Kelley put her heart and whole self into everything she attempted and was well-loved and respected by her teachers and peers alike as she achieved just about everything she tried.
Athletically, Kelley was a member of the varsity tennis and track teams, was a two-sport cheerleader in basketball and football, and received the Miss Cheerleader award.
Artistically, Kelley sang for three years in the Bel Canto Chorale and was a Variety Show soloist and three-year Honor Chorus member. She represented the BHS Literary Team in Girl’s Solo, was the alto in Trio and competed in Dramatic Interpretation. She was a member of the region winning team in One Act Play, which placed third at the state competition, and she received the region Best Actress award for her portrayal of Fred in “Once Upon a Mattress”. She also played Audrey in the school’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” For her many valuable contributions to the arts and her positive determination during her four years, she was chosen as the recipient of the Performing Arts award.
Academically, Kelley was a member of the National Honor Society, named a Georgia Scholar, was chosen as the STAR Student and graduated second in her class as the salutatorian. Additionally, she was co-editor-in-chief for the yearbook, the Student Government Association president and class treasurer. She was a member of the Hugh O’Brian Leadership Congress, Academic Quiz Bowl Team, Beta Club, Key Club and the National Art Honor Society.
After graduation, Kelley attended Emory University, where she graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in sociology. In 2002, she graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law as a Juris Doctor.
With 17 years experience as a prosecutor and four months as the chief assistant, Kelley reflects on how her high school experience shaped her for her career.
“I was well-prepared to read for comprehension and write persuasively, important skills in law school and beyond,” Kelley said. “One Act Play and Literary Dramatic Interpretation prepared me to stand up and speak to a jury in a criminal case.”
She says her fondest high school memory is “Once Upon a Mattress” in her senior year.
“The cast was big, and it was filled with all of my favorite classmates and friends,” she said. “Plus, I was cast as Winnifred/Fred, so I got to sing badly and act completely un-ladylike. I had so much fun!
“I had many wonderful teachers who shaped me immeasurably, but Patsy Maltbie (now Smith) taught a subject that was tougher for me (algebra II) with such enthusiasm that it was contagious,” Kelley said as she fondly recalled her STAR teacher. “It was impossible to be in a bad mood around her — she made you feel as though she loved you like her own.”
Certainly, the love Kelley felt from her teachers at Buford has continued to impact her in her work.
“Advocating for victims of crime is incredibly rewarding for me,” she shared. “It is a special honor to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, such as child victims and victims of homicides.”
Professionally, Kelley is affiliated with the Gainesville-Northeastern Bar Association, Orr Inn of Court, WomenSource, Georgia Mountain Food Bank (past board member), Junior League of Gainesville-Hall County (sustainer) and Leadership Hall County (2014).
She is married to John Robertson of Braselton and mom to Samuel and Luke and manages to effectively balance her time between home, work and giving back to the community.
“I enjoy teaching and presenting within my field and do so on a volunteer basis several times a year,” Kelley said. “I love attending ball games and attending any of the many activities my children are involved in. In my free time, I enjoy reading and spending time outdoors and with my family and friends.”
Now a resident of Gainesville, Kelley recollected about her formative years, “I am so grateful to have grown up in the Buford community. The love and support of all of the teachers and leaders from school and church made a tremendous difference in my life.”
The Buford High School alumni spotlights are made possible by the generosity of the City of Buford.