March 2016, Vol. 71, No. 3


John Nelson Played Significant Role in Establishing NASSCO Vision and Objectives

NASSCO Standard Bearers: John Nelson

EDITOR’S NOTE: NASSCO just completed its 40th anniversary and continues to set standards for the assessment and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure. As the association continues its phenomenal growth, this series profiles those who have made significant contributions and impacted the continued acceptance and growth of trenchless rehabilitation methods. This is a bi-monthly installment in a series of articles exploring the history of NASSCO through the eyes of industry leaders.

This month, NASSCO honors John Nelson. He is a highly committed and involved NASSCO member. He served as NASSCO president in 2012. Nelson was a very active and “hands-on” NASSCO president and played a significant role in establishing the vision and strategic objectives that have positively impacted this organization for many years. He was an active member of the Board of Directors from 2007-2014.

Nelson currently serves as division chair of the Infiltration Control Grouting Association (ICGA), a division of NASSCO. He is also an active member of the WEF Collection System Committee and continues to be committed to serving and educating our industry.

During college in the mid-1980s I was studying to become a teacher. My roommate’s dad owned Municipal & Contractor Supply (MCS), a sewer maintenance and equipment company, and I worked for him during the summers doing root control with Vaporooter. Interestingly enough, I was using NASSCO standards for root control way back then, without even realizing what NASSCO was!

While at college, I was engaged to be married and reality hit me hard: I could continue to pursue my teaching degree and make a salary that was not very appealing, or use the sewer industry experience I had accumulated and accept a full-time job offer from MCS. I chose the latter.

During the first few years with MCS, I repaired sewer equipment throughout Ohio. During that time, I literally learned the nuts and bolts of our industry and was grateful to gain first-hand knowledge about the various trenchless technologies. I expanded my experience base by moving up in the company from equipment repairs to a supervisory position in charge of the manhole rehab and root control crews. This is where my long-standing relationships with other industry professionals, including Mike Hogan from Duke’s Root Control, began.

My next job landed me in sales where I covered the Northern Ohio territory of Municipal Contractor Supply. Owned by Bob Hunn, Sr., one of the early NASSCO pioneers, I was able to take my experience to a new level. Bob taught me a lot about the business, including working with clients directly, using specifications for the trucks we sold, and helping me understand why and how those specifications were written.

After a couple of years, I decided I needed a break. After my abrupt U-turn from teaching, I guess I wanted to make sure there wasn’t something better out there for me. So I quit and took a job in sales for a large corporation that manufactures overhead cranes. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the sewer industry was, indeed, in my blood. I enjoyed working for smaller companies that focused on the sales and service side of underground rehabilitation.

In 1994 I headed with my family to Chicago for Memorial Day weekend to visit my parents. My dad worked for a company that sold sewer equipment and one of his customers was Visu-Sewer, a service provider of assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground pipes. In what I believe was my father’s effort to get my family – especially his grandkids – to move closer to him, he suggested I meet Keith Alexander while I was home for the holiday weekend. Keith and I met at a McDonald’s in Fox Lake, IL, and Keith made me an offer that day. I have been working for Visu-Sewer ever since.

Keith has been an excellent mentor and friend over the years and I have been fortunate to literally follow in his footsteps. I started in sales when Keith was the sales manager for Visu-Sewer. When Keith was promoted to President, I then took over as Sales Manager, eventually moving up to head of operations and today I have the privilege to serve as Visu-Sewer’s vice president.

NASSCO impact

I attended my first NASSCO meeting in 2002. That’s when it all began to click. NASSCO had been an important part of my life since the beginning, but it was not obvious to me that the tools and education I received and relationships I built were because of NASSCO. For example, while working at Municipal Contractor Supply for Bob Hunn, we were doing manhole rehabilitation using the Permaform system. I met Bill Shook during that time in the late 1980s, but I didn’t make the connection until 15 years later when I realized Bill was an instrumental part of NASSCO and setting the standards which I used day after day.

I was involved with NASSCO early in my career without even knowing it, and I am so grateful. The organization was instrumental in shaping me as a sewer industry professional from the very beginning and continues to make a personal impact through its synergy and common values shared by Visu-Sewer and other contractor companies.
As NASSCO grows, I believe it will become even more important for the organization to stay focused on the contractor membership base it has worked so hard to nurture. There are plenty of organizations out there for municipalities and engineers, but NASSCO is the one voice of contractors who, in the end, help realize NASSCO’s mission to set standards for the assessment, maintenance and rehabilitation of underground infrastructure by the quality of the work they perform.

Looking forward, my greatest hope for NASSCO’s future is that we don’t lose our soul. We are growing fast with a strong financial base and an explosive increase in membership. With growth comes change, and while we continue to educate more professionals, support industry partners, give back to our industry and train students for future careers in trenchless technologies, I hope we can manage that growth well and never lose sight of the deep relationships we’ve developed.

Many innovative ideas have come out of just two or three NASSCO members connecting over a beer, sharing successes and solving problems together. As we grow, we need to keep those relationships strong by welcoming new members and getting them involved. As for those of us who have been around for a while, we need
to never get tired of showing the younger members how they can learn and grow right along with us.

(410) 442-7473 (PIPE),

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