Laurel’s Mayor Tom Nelson dies of COVID-19

City mourns loss of long-time public servant
By 
Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, November 4, 2021
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Mayor Thomas C. Nelson

Outlook photo

Laurel’s Mayor Thomas (Tom) C. Nelson died in a Billings’ hospital Friday, Oct. 29, of COVID-19. He had been hospitalized for several weeks.

While Laurel residents, city staff and elected officials grapple with the loss of their mayor and chief administrator, Mayor Nelson’s family and friends have lost much more. Hopefully knowing how much he contributed to the well-being of residents, and that the people of Laurel and the staff of The Laurel Outlook are also grieving, will give them some comfort.

Prior to becoming Mayor in 2018, Nelson served on the council as one of the representatives of Ward 4. He took his role seriously, mainly to ensure Laurel received the resources he knew the City was entitled to.

During and after the installation of the City’s new water intake beginning in 2013, then-Councilman Nelson made numerous trips to Helena trying to recoup the Federal Emergency Management Agency match the City was supposed to receive from the State for its construction. He studied the FEMA and Montana rules and laws governing the disaster assistance program and lobbied the legislature and Governor tirelessly.

In his February 2019 update to residents, Mayor Nelson wrote, “I believe the City of Laurel is in better shape now than it has been for some time. I will continue to put in the hours it takes to see that we continue to address and find solutions to the challenges that we face as we move forward in making Laurel one of the very best cities in the state and one we are all proud to call home.”

In the time since then, even while the pandemic shuttered the doors of City Hall and forced meetings to take place via Zoom and Facebook, Mayor Nelson continued to work on major infrastructure projects. He was determined to develop a plan for Laurel streets that would benefit everyone. During his tenure, several major street projects were instituted and completed. He was also instrumental in having all the streets and City infrastructure mapped and rated by engineers, which will continue to serve as a maintenance guideline for years.

Ward 1 Council Member Heidi Sparks offered this comment, which reflects the general consensus of those who worked with him, “Mayor Nelson was a pillar of the community and a dedicated public servant. It was my honor to serve on the city council during his tenure as mayor. His vision and leadership helped to move Laurel forward and he will be greatly missed.”

Mayor Nelson was 62-years-old. He and his wife, Renee, were married Aug. 16, 2003. He worked for Fabral, now Metal Sales, as a Territorial Manager for Montana and Wyoming for over 25 years.

According to his obituary posted at the Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary website, “Tom loved to hunt, fish, camp and just be outdoors. He was also known for smoking his ribs, which were the best. He also made his own recipes for homemade brats, summer sausage, and pepper sticks out of the deer or elk he had gotten hunting.”

Mayor Nelson is survived by his wife; his parents, Clare and Donna Nelson; brother Don; sister Marvie Jensen; sons, Daniel Nelson and Dylan Auburn; stepson, Josh Poehls; stepdaughter, Stephanie Boyd; and Teresa Sadvig. He had four grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.

His memorial service will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 5, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, 1001 Alderson Ave., in Billings.

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