About four years ago, former Home and Community Options Board Member, Eric Johnsrud, approached fellow attorney, Bruce Nelson, about joining the HCO Board. Bruce was familiar with HCO’s services through his work and knew firsthand the benefits of organizations like HCO. Bruce also had experience serving on other non-profit boards who faced similar issues to those HCO encounters. After being introduced to the other board members and agency leadership, he was very impressed with the non-profit’s work and joined the Board shortly thereafter. He has served on the Board since 2018 and is currently its treasurer.
Bruce came to Winona about 30 years ago. He is originally from Alden, Minnesota (a little town near Austin), and his parents were both teachers. Bruce moved to Winona when he was hired by Rich Blahnik’s firm, shortly after law school. Blahnik then served as Winona City Attorney, and Bruce became the Assistant City Attorney – a position he maintained for about 20 years. When Blahnik stepped down from his city job, Bruce decided to start his own office and has been a sole practitioner for ten years.
He met his wife, Shellie, in Winona when she was an athletic trainer at WSU. A professor in the Department of Nursing, Shellie has worked on developing an online degree completion program for those working in the medical field, and is now starting a master’s program in health leadership.
At home, Bruce and Shellie have two German Shorthaired Pointers, who think and act like they are Bruce and Shellie’s children. Shellie got Bruce interested in curling about twenty years ago, and they now have a shared passion for the sport. They curl all winter in Centerville, where they each belong to a league. They also curl in a co-ed league together. Curling’s rules make it easily adaptable to accommodate social distancing and masks, so it has continued to be an enjoyable pastime during the pandemic.
Bruce feels that HCO has done a phenomenal job of adapting to the changes necessitated by COVID-19 to keep people safe and respond to the changing needs of the individuals in its programs. The biggest challenge he sees for HCO – aside from the pandemic – is staffing. HCO is full of people with the right talents and abilities to provide excellent care, but their ability to attract and retain the number of staff they still need to hire is challenging in such a competitive field. However, “the agency has excellent leaders who are focusing on that challenge,” Bruce says.
With Bruce’s past experience with other nonprofit boards, he considers HCO’s to be among the finest he’s served on. The agency is fiscally sound, and the pandemic has not weakened that aspect of HCO. “HCO’s great leadership and talented, committed staff are well equipped to confront the challenges and realities they meet,” he shares. “We are fortunate to have them.”