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Jack Nelsen Lives in Jerome but has a Familiarity with the Wood River Valley
Thursday, November 3, 2022


Jack Nelsen is a third-generation dairy farmer, having grown up north of Jerome.

But he says he has ties to the Wood River Valley, thanks to his grandmother who owned a cabin near Easley Hot Springs.  

“She met my grandfather on board a ship from Germany to New York between the World Wars. He telegraphed her later that he wanted to get married and she rode the train to Pocatello,” he said. “We’d help her get her firewood, haul water for her--I still remember when she got electricity. One of her neighbors taught me to flyfish and the rest is history.”

Nelsen is running as a Republican for House Seat B in District 26, which was recently configured to encompass Blaine, Jerome and Lincoln counties. His Democrat opponent is Karma Metzler Fitzgerald.

As a youngster he remembers skiing Soldier Mountain with his family and making occasional trips to Sun Valley.

“I’m so old I rode the single-lift chair over the Big Wood River at River Run,” he said. “It was pretty scary going over the river and looking down.”

His family spent summers in Hailey at a house that was torn down to build Wiseguy Pizza in Hailey. Supposedly, its former homeowners—Hassel and Harriet Blankenship—steered Averell Harriman to Sun Valley when he was looking for a place to establish a resort for Union Pacific, Nelsen said.

Nelsen started out a music major at College of Southern Idaho, then got a bachelor degree at the University of Redlands in California. He was band director at CSI during the heyday of basketball coach Fred Trenkle and a parttime music teacher at Wendell High School for three years.

Nelsen spent 20 years on the Jerome County Planning and Zoning Commission, and he currently is a trustee for CSI. He substituted in the legislature last year and found it an eye-opening experience.

“I’m not extremist. Putting Idaho politics back to the middle would be good for everyone,” he said.

Nelsen says he doesn’t believe government should tell a woman what to do when it comes to issues like abortion. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative who believes Idaho has been on a “wonderful track” to providing a vibrant economy.

“I would rather take a 5 percent tax from a lot of companies than tax the heck out of a few,” he said about attracting new companies to the state.

Nelsen believes consumptive water rights—“First in time, first in right”—cannot be altered as they’re  personal property rights. And he believes local government, not the state legislature, should address any issues concerning water rights.

“Too many don’t realize how residential water rights affect things. If you have a house, you have a right to get well and put 13,000 gallons a day on your half acre. But you can’t have lots of green grass and  high-pressure sprinklers and say you value fishing in the river. You can’t have it both ways.”

Nelsen says things need to change so school districts like Dietrich that have no assets to tax can raise money for their students’ education.

“I have no idea the solution but we have to recognize the problem,” he said. “My concern is that the courts will eventually take charge, and no one likes that.”

Nelsen said his status as a Republican gives him an edge since Republicans elect the leadership in the legislature and appoint committee chairs that control the legislation.

“Rep. Maxine Bell, who represented Jerome—her fingerprints were on every bill that went through the legislature. That’s huge power to the majority leadership.”

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