Long time ALEA trooper Jeff Nelson retires

Published 11:00 am Thursday, February 24, 2022

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VALLEY — Jeff Nelson talked about his career in law enforcement at Monday’s meeting of the Valley Lions Club. Nelson is retiring as a state trooper this month after 25 years in the field and is a candidate for the Republican Party nomination for Chambers County Sheriff.

“Wherever I win or not, I am going to stay active,” he said. “I will have a job.”

Nelson grew up in Roanoke, and his parents owned the town’s Piggly Wiggly store. He did many chores at the store and learned the importance of being courteous to everyone who walked into the store. He recalls a now humorous incident in how he knew how essential state troopers were when he was very young.

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“My dad was a big guy and could be intimidating,” he said. “I was with him one day when a trooper pulled him over and gave him a speeding ticket. I was so impressed that the trooper got so much respect from him while talking to him. I was very young, but I realized that troopers were important people.”

Nelson said that being a law enforcement officer was something he’s always wanted to do. He started as a police officer in Roanoke in 1992. He advanced to the Alabama State Patrol within two years. It was a dream job for him, but it was far from easy. He has drawn some challenging tasks in his career. He’s had to travel over large distances in his region and was one of the relatively few officers on patrol most of the time.

He handled fatality wrecks in a multi-county portion of the state for a time. It might sometimes mean a 175-mile round trip to deal with a very tough situation.

There were some tasks he enjoyed. Being assigned to the motorcycle unit was one of this favorite duties.

At one time, Nelson worked a 12-county area for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI). He liked it that he was stationed in Opelika, which was not far from home, and that Chambers County was among the places he worked.

He remembers working a case in Waverly where the remains of a murder victim were found in the woods.

“Four people were arrested,” he said. “They were tried, convicted and each one received a life sentence.”

Nelson worked eight years for the ABI before being transferred to drug enforcement, where he worked a 21-county area in central Alabama. This was during the period when meth labs were commonplace. He received training in how to disassemble them without causing an explosion. He became an expert at it and trained other officers how to handle these delicate situations without blowing themselves up.

“You have to be able to understand the cooking stages and what to do in any situation,” he said.

He used his influence to send local officers Stacey Shirey and T.J. Wood to Quantico, Virginia for training in this.

“I went back to the state patrol when my dad was battling cancer,” he said. “I was later transferred to the governor’s detail.”

He helped provide security for Governors Robert Bentley and Kay Ivey along with other state officials. He was once on a security detail when Donald Trump Jr. went on a turkey hunt near Ohatchee.

“The kind of turkey he killed that day,” he joked, “was the kind that would come up to you and eat out of your hand.”

That drew a round of laughter from a large crowd gathered inside the Sylvia Word Manor community room.

Nelson, his wife Kristin and their children live in the Tara Hills subdivision just off Highway 50 in Huguley. His mother-in-law, Donna Pike, is a former Child Nutrition Program Director for the Chambers County School System.

He credits his parents on teaching him the importance of developing strong relationships with others and always being the kind of person people trust. 

“I learned from them to always do the right thing even if no one is looking,” he said.

Nelson said that one of the first people he got to know from Chambers County was Sheriff James Morgan.

“He and his successor, Sid Lockhart, both helped me a lot in my law enforcement career,” he said. “In my work for the state, I often thought about working for a sheriff’s office. Things go best when all departments work hand-in-hand with each other.”

Nelson said the state is facing a big problem in not having enough law enforcement officers.

“There are probably fewer state troopers in Alabama than they were 20 years ago,” he said. “110 officers are ready to retire. We will have to promote people to replace them. Those who have been working the roads will have to be replaced, too.”

There are times, he said, when a clear lack of troopers are patrolling state roads late at night.

“We need more law enforcement officers on the road,” he said.