Beyond the Boardroom

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Craig S. Nelson

Author: Alexandra Russell
March, 2009 Issue

After graduating law school in 1990, Craig Nelson didn’t rush right into the family business. Instead, he spent a decade honing his legal skills, first as a litigator and later as Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the California Department of Justice. He eventually joined the Nelson Family of Companies in 2001 as general counsel and, in 2005, was named executive vice president of the staffing businesses.

Married with two children, Craig is an active member of his Marin community, serving on the county’s Workforce Investment Board and volunteering his time with St. Anselm School and a local recreational basketball league. Asked during this survey about his dream car, he responds, “I always wanted a BMW M3 and I have one. I don’t really aspire to anything more. I feel pretty lucky.”

That last part sounds like it applies to more than just a car.

Are you a creature of habit?
Absolutely. I eat the same breakfast—a banana, two cups of coffee and almonds—every day.

Describe the worst thing you ever had to wear to school.
I wore a lot of pretty scary things in my high school years, but one pair of way-too-tight Movin’ On jeans on my then-scrawny frame sticks out in my memory.

Do you have a bad habit you’d like to break? 
I have the bad habit of trying to solve problems for people when all they’re looking for is someone to listen. People aren’t always looking for advice.

Do you write down your goals?
Once a year, in late December, I write down both my personal and professional goals.

Have you had an experience that completely changed your life?
Three things: My parents’ divorce, meeting my wife and having kids.

How many brothers and sisters do you have? How has your birth order affected you?
I have three brothers and no sisters. I’m the youngest for my mom and a middle boy for my dad. I’m definitely a mommy’s boy and a little spoiled in my relationship with my mom, which created some competition with my older brother, Mark. With my dad, I think I’m a typical, responsible middle son. Of course, they might all disagree.

If you had $1 million to give away, where would it go?

I would spread it out between our kids’ school and a cause related to Parkinson’s disease.

If you had to sing a karaoke song, what would it be?
I’ve only had the guts to do that once, and I sang “The Gambler.”

List three words to describe yourself in high school.
Personable, skinny, insecure

List three words to describe yourself now.
Personable, not-skinny, happy

Of all the places in the world, where would you choose to live (besides the North Bay)?

San Diego. We lived down there for seven years, and it’s paradise. The people are so friendly.

What brings out your critical side?
My wife would probably say just about everything, but I really have a problem with people who don’t listen and who interrupt.

What did you want to be when you were 10 years old?
A paleontologist.

What items do you currently have stored in the trunk of your car?
The basketballs for my daughter’s CYO team and a couple of saws…don’t ask. 

What remedy for the common cold works best for you?

What TV programs did you love as a child?
“Utlraman” and “Super Friends.”

What was the last movie you saw? Did you enjoy it?
“The Empire Strikes Back.” Of course, it’s about the 20th time I’ve watched it.

What’s one book you’ve recommended to your friends and why?
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. He creates a world of darkness and fear, but it can’t extinguish the incredible love a man has for his child.

What’s something that people do in traffic that really bothers you?
Honk. It’s the one thing that brings out the teenager in me. I slow way down and wave if someone honks at me to speed up or keep going.

What’s the most important value you try and instill in your children?

I think it’s to be themselves while treating everyone the way they’d want to be treated.



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