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On Wednesday, May 31 “The Legend”, Kevin Nelson put away his city work gloves after 46 years with the City of Salida Department of Public Works. Very few people can claim that kind of work record and loyalty, especially these days.

“The Legend…Now Retired”. Kevin Nelson with 46 years at the Salida Public Works Department. Merrell Bergin photo

Starting right out of high school, Nelson has performed many hands-on roles, most recently as Senior Construction Inspector for both the Water and Wastewater teams. He has also helped plan large capital construction projects, arrange for work orders, and do whatever it takes to keep public works projects running smoothly.

Nelson is described as having “…an encyclopedic knowledge of every water and sewer pipe under the ground”.

While residents may not often think about what flows beneath their streets, knowledge like this is priceless, especially when things go “bump in the night” and the services you depend on need fast action.

In 2020, during pothole repair in the alley between F and E Streets in the 100 block of downtown Salida. Team members Mike (dump truck), Rocky and Jerry (steamroller) made quick work of patching the alley which gets heavy use from semis and other delivery trucks. Merrell Bergin photo

In all four seasons and all kinds of weather, Nelson can be seen out on the streets and alleys, walking or piloting numerous city vehicles.

He has helped set up the F Street Plaza as well as behind the controls of the massive John Deere 670D road grader.

In any given year, wrangling pothole repair is a Public Works chore. As a Salida Public Works Supervisor Nelson has led the charge (and manned an asphalt rake) protecting not just the alleys that take heavy use from semis and delivery trucks, but the tires and shocks of thousands of cars that travel Salida streets.

Celebrating Kevin Nelson’s retirement from the City of Salida, Scout Hut, May 31, 2023. Merrell Bergin photo. Nelson’s fellow workers, family and friends gathered at the Salida Scout Hut on May 31, to wish Nelson and his wife Becky the best as they move on to the next chapter of their adventures.

The City of Salida went all-out for one of its longest-serving employees, complete with a big spread of food, a plaque, and a slide show.

Asked what comes next, Nelson says some travel and a few “honey-do chores” are on the short-term horizon and that was confirmed by his wife, Becky Nelson, who has herself logged more than three decades as a valued member of the Salida Public Library crew.

46 years, and most of all “many, many friendships” with Kevin Nelson, Salida Public Works. Merrell Bergin photo

What this longtime downtown resident remembers most about Kevin Nelson is that he was always ready to take time out, answer a question, smile, and calmly explain exactly what the city crews were up to and how it would be done.

For this resident, an amateur “sidewalk superintendent” with little experience in such matters, knowing that caring and professional people like Kevin Nelson are on the scene has always been reassuring.

Featured image: Best wishes to the man behind the road grader…Kevin Nelson, Salida Public Works. Courtesy image