People Watching For Work: Todd Kelly of Genesis Information Services

It takes someone who has an innate curiosity about people’s habits to become a top-notch private investigator and to lead others in the art of following unsuspecting people around town. Todd Kelly, the Vice President of Marketing and Sales of Genesis Information Services, has always been fascinated by what people do when they think no one’s looking. “I love to watch people. I’ll go to the French Quarter, and I’ll say to my wife Neille, ‘Let’s just sit down and watch people.’ She says, ‘That’s all you want to do?’ I love to watch the mannerisms of people and the things that they do when they think they’re not being watched. With cameras everywhere, you’d think people would be more aware. They’re not aware at all. It still shocks me today that people are not conscientious about their surroundings,” explained Todd.

Todd Kelly was born and raised on the Westbank in Terrytown, but he chose to attend De La Salle High School on Saint Charles Avenue in New Orleans because he enjoyed the atmosphere of city life. After high school, Todd enrolled at LSU to study criminal justice. He graduated in the early 1990s with a bachelor’s degree in that major, but he didn’t quite know what to do with it. He wondered what he should do with his life next.

On January 13, 1990, then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney imposed a civilian hiring freeze at the Pentagon in hopes that tens of thousands of jobs would be eliminated which he believed would help the government avoid massive layoffs and stop the closure of military bases. The hiring freeze only lasted for nine months, but the ramifications spread throughout much of the federal government for months to come. Newly-graduated Todd wanted to join the Drug Enforcement Agency, but it was nearly impossible at the time. He didn’t want to bide his time until the freeze was over by becoming a police officer, so he took his fledgling career in a different direction. “A friend of mine had connections with the District Attorney’s office in Baton Rouge, so I went to work for the DA’s office of East Baton Rouge. It was a great job, loved every minute of it,” Todd explained. There was just one problem, however. “It just didn’t pay any money. I was broke all the time.”

At this time in his life, Todd was roommates with Stephen DeBosier, currently a partner at the Dudley DeBosier Law firm and still great friends with Todd. He continued, “When Stephen graduated law school, he decided to leave Baton Rouge. I couldn’t afford a place by myself, so I came home to New Orleans. Someone said, ‘How about private investigation work?’ I had never heard of it, so I looked it up.”

Once Todd started looking into the world of private investigation, he was quickly employed at a small agency called the Triple A Detective Agency that tripled his income. It wasn’t easy money to make, however. “We were doing a lot of domestics: husband and wife adultery, and stuff like that. That’s some scary stuff; there’s always trouble. I’s not easy work because it’s always on weekends and late nights. Literally, me and the guy who holds our license Dwayne Jeanjacques sat in the car for 48 hours straight on a case. Trying to stay awake for that long is tough, but we got what we needed to get,” recalled Todd.

Eventually, Todd took a private investigator position with a nationwide company based in Chicago called InPhoto Surveillance. Todd said, “It was a very good company run by a man named Bill Kizorek. He was a very intelligent man, knew how to market very well, and he had about 130 investigators nationwide. He was one of the first ones to do that. He went on 20/2060 Minutes… you named it, he was on it. I had to go all over the country doing surveillance.”

Although he was enjoying working at InPhoto Surveillance, something happened that made Todd realize he didn’t want to work as a field agent anymore. “Someone pulled a gun on me and almost killed me. I said, ‘You don’t pay me enough to do this. I could have been a cop on the federal level if I wanted to do this.’”

Todd transitioned into sales at InPhoto Surveillance, which he admittedly knew nothing about when he was offered the position, but he loved the hours and the fact that he wouldn’t be put in dangerous situations anymore. Todd remembered, “As an investigator, you work every weekend. You work every holiday, especially Mardi Gras. You’re constantly working. So that position got me into sales working Monday through Friday. My wife was happy because we were pregnant at the time.”

InPhoto Surveillance was eventually sold to Kroll Inc., and Todd decided to leave the company with his clients when he was told he wouldn’t be getting a raise. Todd found a business partner, and they opened a private investigation agency in the greater New Orleans area in 2000. They remained partners in business for about 10 years before they decided to split. Todd’s wife Neille stepped in to take over the business. “My wife opened up Genesis Information Services, and she said, ‘The only partner you’re going to have is me. We’re not having any more partners. You’d have to divorce me to get rid of me.’ And that’s how Genesis was born in 2010, so we’re nine years old.”

In its nine years, Genesis Information Services has won several awards, including one for being a woman-owned business. Todd and Neille met because their siblings were dating. Todd explained, “My brother and her sister dated for two weeks. One day it was raining, and I was supposed to meet my brother at a Mardi Gras parade. I picked up the phone, and he said, ‘Hey, why don’t you come to the French Quarter with me, Kim, and Neille instead?’ I was like, ‘Who’s Neille?’ He said, ‘Oh it’s Kim’s sister, y’all will hit it off.’ Sure enough, I went and that was it. Then two days later, our siblings broke up!”

Genesis Information Services has treated Todd, Neille, and their employees very well. He boasted, “We’ve got 25 investigators and a full staff. Kelly Jeanne Debenport, my niece, is an associate of mine in sales. It’s all family or friends of family, so it’s all very tight-knit around here. We like to keep it that way, the investigators that I have, my core investigators, they’ve been with me since Day 1, since 2000. It’s a strong company, probably one of the biggest ones in Louisiana.”

This business will probably stay in the family for generations to come. One of Todd’s daughters has already told him that she plans to take over when the time comes. “She said she wants this business. I said, ‘If you want to do that, you need to go to business school in marketing at LSU. Then come back and see me.’” Todd believes that having a female owner and many female employees is a benefit to the company. “Women make the best P.I.s. Nobody expects a female to be a private investigator.”

When not tending to their business, The Kellys indulge in competitive cooking as the main family hobby, and they almost always take home the top prize. Todd claims that his T.K. Tuna is unlike any other seafood dish on the planet. He rattled off his recent culinary accomplishments, “We just did Rummel’s Beast Feast. They were missing seafood; they had all kinds of meat, but no seafood. I’m known for my T.K. Tuna, it’s grilled ahi tuna over hummus with this sauce that I make. It’s mostly the sauce that makes it. I think we went through eight cases of tuna. Then the next day, we did Hogs for the Cause. Our team was called Smokey Ridge BBQ. We did pretty well, we raised $11,000 and we got ninth place in pulled pork. I cooked tuna all weekend for Lent. There’s a grammar school down the street called St. Matthews, and there was a crawfish cookoff. We won first place for that in Lagniappe Dish. We did a crawfish bisque type thing that my wife made. Technically, she won first place. We’ve done that for the last 10-11 years. They actually banned me from making my tuna because we won three first places in a row!”

For The Kellys, the family that investigates together, stays together.

To learn more about Genesis Information Services, visit Genesisisinc.com.