26 May Christopher Nelson
Chris Nelson is currently chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission. Chris was appointed Jan. 8, 2011, by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to fill a vacancy on the commission and was elected by South Dakota voters in November 2012 to continue his service for the remaining four years of the term. He was re-elected to a full term in November 2016, garnering the highest electoral percentage ever for a contested statewide race. Chris served as the PUC’s chairman in 2012, 2015, and 2016 and as vice chairman in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019, and 2020.
He is a member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners serving on the association’s Board of Directors, chairing the Broadband Expansion Task Force, co-chairing the Washington Action Program, is a member of its Investment Committee, and is a past chairman of its Committee on Telecommunications. He has been appointed by the Federal Communications Commission to the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, representing the interests of NARUC as state chairman of the board. Chris is on the board of directors for the National Regulatory Research Institute.
Previously, Chris served as South Dakota’s secretary of state, having been elected in the 2002 general election. Chris was unopposed for re-election in 2006, which was the first time the office was unopposed in the history of South Dakota.
Prior to becoming secretary of state, Chris held the position of state election supervisor in the secretary of state’s office for 13 years and was a uniform commercial code supervisor in the same office for two years.
As secretary of state, Chris received the 2010 Excellent Service to South Dakota County Officials award from the South Dakota County Officials Association, the 2004 Hazeltine/Taylor award from South Dakota Kids Voting, and the 2003 Excellence in South Dakota Municipal Government award from the South Dakota Municipal League. In 2005, Chris was appointed as a National Governors Association representative on the United States Election Assistance Commission Board of Advisors.
Under Chris’ leadership, the secretary of state’s office was awarded the Election Center’s 2009 Professional Practices Program State Award. This annual award is given as recognition for the most outstanding election administration professional practice in the nation. The award recognizes the 2008 development and implementation of a new central election reporting system for the state.
Following graduation from White Lake High School, Chris earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science, with the highest honors, from South Dakota State University in 1987.
Chris is involved in his church and counts agriculture and hunting as two areas of personal interest. He maintains a part-time cattle operation. Chris and his wife, Penny, reside in Pierre. Their daughter, Rebekah, is a nurse in Sioux Falls.