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Tom Nelson

for Outagamie County Executive
Dedication - Experience - Leadership
About Tom

A Proven Leader

Dedication. Experience. Leadership.

Tom Nelson’s roots in Wisconsin run deep. His father, a retired Lutheran Pastor, established a church in Combined Locks (1980) and later a satellite mission-church in the village of Sherwood in Calumet County. Grandma and Grandpa Nelson worked a small dairy farm in Polk County. His maternal grandparents lived in South Milwaukee and his grandfather was an electrical engineer at Allen-Bradley where he invented several patents for radio controls helping drive innovation in one of the nation’s top manufacturing hubs. Tom graduated valedictorian from Little Chute High School and earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He received a Master in Public Affairs degree at Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs. 

Nelson was previously elected to the State Assembly in 2004 and was re-elected twice (2006, 2008). He served as Majority Leader in his third term (2009-11). It was in the latter legislative session that he helped lead the way in adopting a state budget in the Great Recession, making sure our schools were properly funded, and keeping key infrastructure projects on pace. He also played an important role in helping Wisconsin secure much-needed Recovery Act funding. 

As his home-county’s chief elected official, he leads Outagamie County as one of the state’s largest counties and one of the best-managed (Aaa bond rating). He oversees an international airport (Appleton International Airport) which supports directly and indirectly 2,500 jobs in the region and contributes over $670 million in economic activity every year; one of the largest publicly owned and operated recycling facilities in the country which recovers over 100,000 tons of recycle material every year; and a model criminal justice treatment services department that has developed alternatives to incarceration including a veterans court, mental health court, and other initiatives that have turned around hundreds of lives and made them productive members of our community.


As county executive he helped save a paper mill that had been auctioned off to an industrial scrap dealer. He joined the United Steelworkers (USW) in objecting to the sale and prevailed in court to keep the mill running. Today, Midwest Paper Group employs 300 workers and thrives in the expanding cardboard and packaging market. The paper mill is the subject of Tom’s book One Day Stronger: How One Union Local Saved a Mill and Changed an Industry - And What it Means for American Manufacturing. The book earned a starred rave review from Kirkus, which called it, “An inspiring saga of grassroots political cooperation.”

As a proven and effective local leader, Tom Nelson is ready to continue his work as Outagamie County Executive.

Proven record of working for Outagamie County
  • Attained Aaa bond rating, highest possible credit rating, for 12 budgets in a row

  • Declining tax rate for eight years in a row

  • Fully funded services while holding the line on taxes

  • Doubled the economic impact of the Appleton International Airport (county department) to $700 million per year, supporting directly and indirectly about 2,500 jobs

  • Strong, collaborative relationship with county board - Most budgets adopted on a unanimous vote or with very strong support

  • Vetoed a county sales tax

  • Helped save a local paper mill by objecting to a receivership sale in Outagamie County court

  • Re-organized three treatment courts with an additional alternative treatment court pending

  • Doubled recycled tonnage at recycling facility to 100,000+ tons per year

  • Spearheaded the 15-mile long "Loop the Locks" trail system that will connect five area communities

  • State of the art renewable gas reclamation system at the solid waste facility that will harvest methane -- clean it, put it on the grid to -- to heat homes and generate revenue

  • $7.5 million state of the art 911 communications center, 75 percent is funded through ARPA funds

  • $3.5 million ARPA-funded housing grants to build new affordable, housing stock in the area

  • Worked closely with area leaders, the Department of Transportation (DoT) and Office of the Governor to secure and let the Highway 15 bypass project around Hortonville, and the Highway 41 expansion project, both much-needed infrastructure projects and safety measures that were hung up in Madison for years because of politics

  • Worked with other county executives and administrators, the attorney general and the governor to approve legislation that would release much-needed funding from the national Opioid lawsuit for our communities, including millions for Outagamie County alone

  • Awarded $210,000 of ARPA grants for 72 small businesses.

  • Awarded $1.4 million of ARPA grants for 67 local non-profit organizations

  • Allocated $1.3 million of ARPA funding to alleviate court back-log due to COVID-related interruptions of operations

  • $2.5 million ARPA funding appropriated for broadband expansion

  • $5.5 million ARPA funding for childcare, health care and mental health 

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