Kelly began his career in politics in 1995, when he was elected to two consecutive terms on the Sioux Falls City Council. In 2002 he was elected and served two consecutive terms in the South Dakota Senate. In 2008 he was elected to the Minnehaha County Commission in which he served until 2016. According to News Center, Kelly was 81 years old.
Governor Noem ordered flags to half-staff at the State Capitol January 18,2022 to honor former state Senator Richard M. Kelly.