Up Close & Personal:
John C. Nelson; Attorney, Politician & Family Man
John C. Nelson has been an Ellicottville resident four five years now. He is a practicing attorney in Ellicottville and his firm is in the village. Nelson has become part of the community in the short time he has been here and is very affable. Many people have come to know him, as he has been a judge in Ellicottville for a spell and he is also a DJ at Madigan’s on the weekends. Nelson has been married to his best friend Sam for three years, actually to the day this article is being written. Now the Nelson’s are with their first child, a boy they named Weston. Recently John Nelson ran for Cattaraugus County Legislator. It was his first political campaign and it heightened his prominence in the area.
The Villager caught up with John and asked him some questions to get Up Close and Personal:
He told the Villager he was born in Warsaw, NY and originally lived in Holland and “then moved to Arcade when I was young.” He went to Pioneer for high school and “was very involved with FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America). Tri Varsity Athlete: Golf, Bowling, and Tennis. The real man sports.” And when asked where else he went to school Nelson answered, “Went to Canisius College for business, ended up with a degree in English Education. Started a Master’s Degree in literacy there.” And also said, “[I] Was teaching suspended and sick students at Pioneer High School and a few other places while running a DJ biz. Some influential people in my life, along with my experiences teaching suspended students, pushed me to fulfill one of my dreams to go to law school.”
Growing up in Arcade, Nelson’s first job was “at Jenny Lee’s Diner (now Theo’s) as a server. Friday nights were the best because it was always 50’s night and all the staff dressed up. I also worked at Wyoming County Bank throughout high school. I met the late Lori Nordlund who was the manager of the Ellicottville Branch (5 Star), which is where I first discovered Ellicottville.”
The Villager: When did you meet your wife?
John Nelson: About four years ago up in Buffalo, through a friend.
V: When did you get married?
JN: Three years ago today in Ellicottville. With an awesome 80’s costume themed wedding.
V: Where did you start your firm?
JN: Started in Ellicottville about 3.5 years ago.
V: What kind of law do you practice?
JN: Mostly criminal, DWI and Traffic, but also civil litigation. I like criminal law because it is one of the few places you can fight for Constitutional Freedoms.
V: What was your time as a judge like here in Ellicottville?
JN: My time as judge was amazing. I wish I could have continued doing it, but the make up of courts changed, and I was precluded from appearing in a number of courts. I wanted to still be able to feed my forthcoming child.
V: When did you come to EVL?
JN: I got a place at Wildflower back in 2011ish when I was working in Arcade. I wanted a small town, close to where I was working with a lot going on. And most importantly, right after law school, I moved south to get away from winter. I knew that if I was going to be happy living in WNY, I had to embrace the cold; where better than to do that than Ellicottville. Now I anticipate winter instead of dreading it.
V: Why did you get interested in politics locally?
JN: I had no interest in politics, but the impending sale of the nursing home motivated me to get involved. Once I saw all of the possible things we could do in Cattaraugus County, especially with tourism and the future of Ellicottville with that position, I went full bore into it.
V: What made you want to get more involved?
JN: Sort of what I said above: that we could really make a difference in the community with that position. Everything starts at the local level. The chance to make our community better for the long term. People are leaving, and we need to give them a reason to stay by getting involved.
V: How did your candidacy start for legislator?
JN: Someone mentioned the nursing home issue and asked me to run.
V: How did the campaign go?
JN: It’s over. I received tremendous support from Ellicottville. Unfortunately, I didn’t do well enough throughout the rest of the district. In the end, I made some tremendous friends and supporters for the future. And I think it got a lot of people involved locally who had never voted before. A couple different people told me that they had never voted (and I registered a number of new voters) and that it gave them the belief they could actually make a difference with their vote.
V: What did you learn from it?
JN: That everything starts with local politics and that is where real change is going to start. More importantly, every single local election should be challenged. No one should float into a position. We need to hold all of our elected officials accountable to make them better, to know where they stand, and to get new people involved so we have others involved for the future.
V: What did you find most repulsive about the election?
JN: Where would I start?
V: Will you run again for anything?
JN: I’m sure at some point. I promised Sam that I’d take a break for now, but we are going to continue ‘A Cattaraugus for Tomorrow’. I’m optimistic about it, and I think it’s a way to get new people involved and interested in local politics to make a difference in the community. I envision it as non-partisan, simply as a group to back and support new candidates for all positions.
V: What do you love most about EVL?
JN: It’s such a small, tight knit community with so much going on, on such a large scale. The community as a whole is so welcoming and supportive, but so unique. It’s kind of like living on the Island of Misfit Toys, and I feel right at home.