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Chris Nelson

Distinguished Alumnus December 2015

Nelson Chief low resChris Nelson currently serves as the Chief of Police for the City of Auburndale, a position he has held since 2012. After attending Bartow High School, he started work for the Polk County School Board in the vocational department immediately following graduation. He later took a position as a police officer with the Bartow Police Department after attending the Police Academy at Polk State College. Nelson had always wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement, and it was during this time that a mentor encouraged him to go back to school to get his degree.

Nelson was able to work full time while attending Polk State on a part-time basis. He worked as a patrolman and traffic homicide investigator with the Bartow Police Department before he moved to Live Oak, Florida, where he eventually became Assistant Chief. Nelson received his Associate in Arts degree from Polk State in 1998, his Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from St. Leo University in 2001, and a Master of Science in Criminology from Florida State University in 2010.

In addition to working for the Live Oak Police Department, Nelson also worked as an investigator at the State Attorney’s Office in the Third Judicial Circuit. The Chief of Police in Live Oak, Nolan McLeod, had been a mentor and colleague to Nelson. When McLeod was appointed Chief of Police in Auburndale in 2007, he hired Nelson for the position of Deputy Chief. When McLeod passed away, Nelson was appointed the Chief of Police for the City of Auburndale in July 2012.

As a board member of both the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Polk County Police Chiefs Association, and a member of the Polk State College Criminal Justice Advisory Committee, Chief Nelson’s leadership and experience have helped to advance the profession. He has been a strong advocate for the Polk State Center for Public Safety that is set to open in January 2016.

Chief Nelson remains highly involved in the community though his membership in the Auburndale Rotary Club and his participation as a board member for the Polk County Youth Fair. He participated in the Youth Fair in high school, and credits this activity for teaching him about being responsible for others and the importance of fiscal accountability —skills he has used throughout his career. Nelson is also a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy Class 209 and Leadership Polk Class VIII.