A native of Alameda County, Nelson was born in Oakland and spent his formative years growing up in San Leandro. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics and a Masters degree in Public Administration with an emphasis in Public Finance from California State University, East Bay. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School – Senior Executives in State and Local Government Program.
Nelson moved to Pleasanton in 1996. He came to City after being promoted throughout his career in local government that took him from Hayward, to San Dimas and then Campbell, before arriving in Pleasanton. After a nationwide search, the Pleasanton City Council selected Nelson to be the City Manager in October 2004, making him at the time the state’s youngest City Manager of a full-service city. During Nelson’s 24 years with the City of Pleasanton, he has served four mayors, fourteen Councilmembers, and as City Manager has guided the organization through civic elections as well as the appointment of several department directors and city employees. Throughout his career in local government, Nelson has been active in, and held leadership roles with, organizations that support and further the role of municipal managers, including the League of California Cities and ICMA. Nelson is known for creative problem solving and innovative thinking and his dedication to solving organizational and community-wide issues. Nelson has served two terms as President of the Alameda County City Managers Association and has taught graduate level courses at both Stanford University and Cal-State University, East Bay. Nelson resides in Pleasanton and participates in many sports, education and community activities.