Occupation: National Sales Manager, U.S. Bridge
Family: Single; two daughters, Brittany Russell, 24, and Cameron Russell, 22.
Nelson Russell knows a thing or two about recreation and having fun. The 1982 William Blount High School graduate earned a BS degree in education with a focus in public recreation administration. While going through college, he interned with Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation Commission. After school he joined his family’s business at Southern Castone, and for years has spent his free time officiating with Parks and Rec. For the past 14 years, Russell has served on the commission as the Blount County representative. He is the current commission chair.
“Soccer is one of our fastest growing sports as far as participation,” Russell says. “Softball is down a little bit, and basketball is down some, but volleyball is up. Those are national trends,” he said. “Our numbers haven’t dropped nearly as much as national trends.”
Russell said that along with strong schools and a healthy housing market, a good parks and recreation program is important to a community that is recruiting industry. “When a big company takes a look at a place, they want to look at quality of life issues, particularly if they have upper management.”
Russell said his family owned a concrete company called Southern Castone, and they all opted to sell it 10 years ago. “When I sold it, I bummed around and did consulting and eventually landed a job with Tellico Culvert,” said Russell. There he covered East Tennessee and also represented U.S. Bridge. Before long he was assigned to nothing but U.S. Bridge contracts. A little over five years ago, U.S. Bridge hired Russell to work directly for them. He moved up through the company ranks and in January he became national sales manager.
When he’s not working or volunteering with Parks and Recreation, Russell said he enjoys boating. “The biggest thing is I love the lake. I’ve got a Chaparral 330, and I love to just go out on a Friday afternoon and come back Sunday. Just go out and stay out,” he said.
Russell is a member of the Vol Navy, the boaters who travel to University of Tennessee games via the river. “Going to UT games, that’s a blast. We usually try to go up a day before the game and spend the whole weekend. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of the guys who go together, and it’s a lot of fun,” he said.
Here is Nelson Russell:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“Both. My dad, Don Russell, is laid back and does not get to excited about things. My mother, Marilyn Russell, has a passion and drive and get’s really motivated. I kind of wrestle with myself in certain situations as to how I need to approach different life situations.”
How do you like your steak cooked?
“I don’t like the color pink, so medium well to well. I know it’s supposed to taste better rare but I just can’t bring myself to eat it that way.”
What are you guilty of?
“How much space do you have here?”
What is your favorite material possession?
“My boats. There is nothing better to me than a great day on the lake. I have a cruiser with a generator and a refrigerator so I can hang out there for days without having to come back in.”
What are you reading currently?
“I am a big military history buff. I am reading ‘The Rising Tide,’ by Jeff Shaara. It is the first volume in a planned trilogy which follows several characters through World War II. It’s fiction based upon historical facts and settings. I enjoy watching leaders develop, the situations they are faced with and how they handle them.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“I have quite a few, but probably when I was officiating a middle school basketball game at Montvale Elementary. A little boy was walking inside the lines with a bag of popcorn and a Coke. There was a fast break, and I took off down the court. As the lead official, I was looking over my shoulder, not where I was going. About 10 feet from the baseline, we collided, and I knocked him into the stands. It knocked the legs out from under me, and I went sliding on my stomach out the gym door. Popcorn and Coke were everywhere.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My weight. I know I should work out more or just even work out but it’s hard for me to travel for work sometimes eight to 10 hours per day and then spend an hour on the treadmill at the hotel. It’s much easier to hit the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.”
What is your passion?
“Spending time with family and friends. There is never enough time for that.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“To some degree, maybe my grandparents. I relied on them for advice. My mother’s father, Leland Willocks, owned Willocks Brother’s Concrete, and he was a self-made man. My grandfather C.B. Russell was very spiritual man and was always at church every time it was open. They were totally different people with nothing in common. They had been through the Depression and wars and were self-made men. My grandfather Russell came out of the gold mines of Kentucky and became head of the commissary at Union Carbide, what is now the Y-12 complex.”
If a movie were made about your life, who would play you and why?
“Bill Murray. He’s an average-looking guy and doesn’t take himself too seriously.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“For Christmas one year my mother gave me a book that talked about life situations and how to deal with them. The surprise part was that she had put several $100 bills sandwiched between the pages throughout the book. I was married, had a newborn, was working and going to college. Both the book and the money came at a good time.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Remember who you are and where you came from. I always took it as I had a responsibility for my actions not only to myself but to family and friends.”
Who is your hero?
“To some degree my grandfathers. As far as growing up, I didn’t have a sports hero but those guys were patriarchs of the family on both sides and had accomplished a lot. To me that was best source to go to for anything. They weren’t the type who would pull you aside and tell you what to do, they waited for you to come to them and they did. I miss that.”
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
“Dog person. I have three mixed breed mutts. One came from the pound, one from an ex-wife and one that someone just put out.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“During high school and a year or so while in college, I worked for my family’s concrete block company. I loaded our customers pick-up trucks with blocks by hand. Some days, that could be several hundred 30-pound, 8 inch blocks. It was hot, dirty and a great life motivator. I learned about hard work first hand and knew I wanted to graduate from college so I didn’t have to do that for the rest of my life.”