Public service fuels Nelms’ run for office

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 2, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The question voters have about Robert E. Nelms these days is, what are his qualifications for becoming the next Suffolk Clerk of Court?

First, he has gained business experience as owner and president of Nelms Corporation and Robert Nelms Consulting, and as vice president of Ryan Construction Company. Second, he has earned a law degree from Regent University, which could obviously help with ever-present legal issues in the Clerk’s office. Both attributes he believes will help him and the staff to remain (and become more so) fast, efficient and friendly in helping Suffolk residents.

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Speaking of service, it’s that quality that really fuels Nelms. Based on his background, you could say that the desire to serve the public is not only in his genes, it’s even a product of his environment.

&uot;It’s part of my blood, my family’s history,&uot; Nelms said, pointing out that two in his family tree served as the first postmaster of Chesapeake and mayor on the Nansemond County Board of Supervisors (E. Trigg Harrison and J.W. Nelms respectively).

But also, &uot;public service has been part of my life since I was a child,&uot; he said, speaking warmly about his grandmother, Hattie Harrison, who was an inspiration in his youth.

As if that weren’t enough, he cites a renown Chuckatuck native:

&uot;When I was in first-grade – 6-years-old – my mom took me to the state capitol and I met Mills E. Godwin Jr. He picked me up and carried me around. He told me ‘You can be anything you want to be.’&uot;

Later, Nelms went on to become elementary class president at NSA; traveled as an exchange student to Spain in ninth-grade; and won a contest to represent Virginia at the United Nations. Flash forward several years and he was working for Senator Paul Trible in Washington, D.C.

&uot;A great desire to represent my home,&uot; eventually led him to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for the 76th District for six years in the1990s. When he went to Richmond, Nelms had the backing of the local Republican faction, which had won over a long-held Democratic seat.

You might have noticed his recent campaign signs (at least those not stolen by person or persons unknown) frequently include the word Republican. This caused a bit of a stir within the Suffolk party that publicly questioned this since it had picked Kirk Pretlow for endorsement.

&uot;I visited Kirk about the campaign and told him I had helped build the Republican party in Suffolk…and there was no way I was going to give up my Republican base that I had built up.&uot;

So although he’ll be listed on the ballot as an independent, &uot;I’m still going to be Republican,&uot; said Nelms proudly about his personal political affiliation.

Asked what he would do different about his campaign, he said he’d &uot;ask each individual for their vote,&uot; and &uot;that it would be a little more relaxed.&uot;

Otherwise, &uot;I’m very proud of the campaign. I have superb volunteers and family, and it’s not over. I don’t take anything for granted.&uot;