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Nelson named town manager in Benson

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BENSON — The town of Benson brought in a familiar face to fill the role of town manager. During a special session Nov. 26, commissioners chose to give Fred Nelson the job he’d been doing on an interim basis.

By a 5-0 vote, with Commissioner Jim Johnson absent, the panel voted to offer the job to the man who at one time sat in the mayor pro-tem’s seat.

The offer is contingent upon the two sides reaching a contract agreement.

“I’m humbled that you considered me able to serve the town well in this capacity,” Nelson said. “When I was asked what made me want to come and do this work, I jokingly said, ‘my wife was tired of me being retired and I was, too,’ so we agreed on that.”

Nelson, who served five terms as commissioner before opting not to run, took the interim role after former town manager Matt Zapp left to fill a similar role in Emerald Isle in March.

“I pray that I can serve the townspeople well, the employees and this board well,” he said. “And that we can continue to polish this apple we call Benson so that it shines very brightly.”

Nelson was chosen from a large field of candidates. Mayor Jerry Medlin said a total of 35 applicants initially showed interest, with the number being pared down to five who were asked to offer videos of any information they wished to be considered. Of those, three returned videos with two of them being interviewed face-to-face before Nelson was chosen.

“I do honestly enjoy working with this group of folks here and with this board,” Nelson said. “We might not agree on everything, but we can come to a common ground, and I think that is key to any good team, that we can come to a common ground and get things done.”

Nelson has overseen the town’s latest infrastructure upgrades, including the repaving of several portions of Main Street.

“I look forward to finishing up some projects that were in the works when I came on as interim,” Nelson said. “We’ll be looking for the town’s folks to give us direction as to what they’d like to see happen in Benson. We’ll follow the board’s lead and hopefully be able to give them good information so they can make the best decisions.”

Asked what his priorities could be, Nelson said one thing would be making some aesthetic changes to the town.

“We’re in the midst of so many (changes) right now, but one of the things I’d like to see is art in Benson,” Nelson said. “Murals and freestanding art, nothing too hard I think, but something that will benefit the community.”

For those with a little deeper concern about a problem that seems to be rising to the top time and again, Nelson has a target in mind.

“We’re talking about water needs in town as far as development coming to Benson,” he said. “How much water are we going to need to serve people, whether residential or commercial? Even at an industrial site, do we have enough water for our growing town?”

Nelson elaborated on what could happen, depending upon what the town residents, board and other officials decide to be prudent.

“It might mean a new tower, it might mean how we interact with our connecting communities in terms of how we receive and/or sell water,” he said. “So, I look forward to that.”