Biography of Bruce Nelson
Bruce Nelson is currently (2016) the Montana State Executive Director (SED) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA). Born in Fort Benton in 1951, Bruce was raised on the family wheat and cattle operation located seven miles west of Fort Benton. Bruce, along with his family, continues to operate the same farm today. Bruce graduated from Fort Benton High School before attending the University of Montana, graduating with a BA in Political Science in 1973. After taking a year on the family farm, he returned to UM in the Fall of 1974 and was taking classes when he was asked to head the Montana Student Lobby for the 1975 Legislature.
After the Legislature Bruce went to work as an Administrative Assistant to Montana Governor Tom Judge in the fall of 1975. He took a break in service at the Governor’s Office in the spring and early summer of 1976 when he was in charge of Idaho Senator Frank Church’s presidential campaign in Montana. After an overwhelming Church victory in the 1976 Montana Democratic Presidential Primary and attendance at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of Frank Church, Bruce returned to the Governor’s Office. While working there he also participated in Governor Judge’s successful re-election in November 1976. He continued to work in the Governor’s Office through 1977.
In 1978, he became a senior staff member in the Pat Williams for Congress campaign for Montana’s open Western District Congressional seat. Assisting Williams in winning a six-person primary election and the general election, Bruce went to Washington, DC where he served as Congressman Williams’ Chief of Staff from 1979 into 1981.
Bruce returned to Montana and the family farm in 1981. In 1983 he was elected to be Chairman of the Montana Democratic Party, a position he would hold until 1991. During that eight-year period he served with distinction on the Democratic National Committee.
After Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, Bruce was appointed by the President in 1993 to serve his first stint as Montana SED of USDA FSA, a position he held until the end of the Clinton presidency in 2001. From 2001-2004 Bruce was the Construction Project Manager for Zoot Industry of Bozeman on the development of their new state-of-the-art headquarters/operations center near the Four Corners area west of Bozeman.
After serving as a senior campaign advisor during the election campaign of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer in 2004, Bruce headed up the Governor-elect’s transition team and after the swearing-in ceremony in January of 2005, became Governor Schweitzer’s Chief of Staff, serving in that position until July of 2009.
At that time, President Barak Obama appointed Bruce to a second stint as Montana SED of FSA. He served in that position from 2009 into 2011, when the President appointed Bruce to serve as Acting Administrator of Farm Service Agency in Washington, D. C. (May - June 2011) and then Administrator from July 2011- July 2012. In August 2012 Bruce returned to Bozeman and the Montana SED position, where he currently continues to serve.
Bruce and his wife, Nancy Kaiser of Great Falls, have been married for 30+ years. They have three children and currently live in Bozeman.
Nelson, Bruce and Barrett, Evan, "Biography of Bruce Nelson" (2016). Biographies and Photos of Series Participants. 43.