This month’s member spotlight features Andy Nelson. You may recognize his name from his campaign for Montana State Legislature, he is the Executive Director of The Center, and one of Run Wild Missoula’s newest board members!
Andy grew up in northeast Montana about 60 miles south of Canada and 30 miles west of North Dakota in a town called Culbertson. He spent the first 11 years of his life on a wheat farm about five miles north on Hi Line. Although his brother, Jed, pursued farming into his adulthood, Andy had other aspirations that took him to Missoula. He had visited Missoula over the years traveling for cross country, speech, and drama. His fondness for Missoula grew over time, which led him to the University of Montana for his undergraduate studies. After trying on many different majors, he eventually settled on a dual major in history and political science. Upon graduation, Andy was not quite sure what he wanted to do other than knowing that he wanted to stay in Missoula. He worked in the hospitality industry for a number of years after college before finding his way to the nonprofit sector.
Currently, Andy serves as the Executive Director of The Western Montana LGBTQ+ Community Center. The Center is an affirming environment for peoples of all sexual orientations and gender identity expressions. They empower community through education, advocacy, and collaborative networking all while striving to Western Montana’s voice for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. Andy first got involved with The Center at the tail end of his senior year in college in 2015, shortly after coming out. He was looking for a community to help him through the process when a friend suggested that he check out the men’s group at The Center. Andy joined the gay mens chorus anad was regularly attending mens group meetups, within a few short months he found himself serving on their board of directors. He went on to serve as the secretary on their board and four years ago was hired part-time as their Operations Administrator. Last year, he was promoted to the Executive Director position and they just hired a second staff member about three weeks ago!
Andy recently announced that he is running for House District 98. He has always had an interest in politics and knew he wanted to run eventually but was not quite sure what shape it would take. After being involved in ample nonprofit work in Missoula and working in specific areas for marginalized communities, the catalyst that pushed him to throw his hat in the ring was watching the legislative session last spring. In particular, the slew of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, voting rights restrictions, and limiting the power of local health officials has motivated Andy to run for office. Ultimately, Montana is his home and will always be his home. He knew that when he decided to run for office, that he would be in it for the long haul. He is feeling fiercely committed and wants to do something that makes a positive impact on the community that has raised him.
In spite of all of Andy’s community involvements, he is no stranger to Run Wild Missoula. His first Run Wild Missoula event was the Missoula Half Marathon in 2015. Since then he has completed the Missoula Marathon and several Diva Day’s over the years. Run Wild Missoula partnered with The Center last June for the Rainbow Romp and then again for the Heart Throb 5K in February! Although he started running in junior high on the cross country team, he has found a joy in running solo and finds it nourishingly meditative. He fell in love with running outside of the team aspect of it when he could do it on his own terms and benefit. Between work and knocking on doors for his campaign, it has been hard for Andy to find the time to run. He is hoping that joining the board of Run Wild Missoula will encourage him to get back into running!
When Andy is not working or campaigning, he is passionate about volunteering in the community. In particular, Andy loves being involved with the Missoula Community Theater. He has been in 10 productions over the last several years. Andy currently serves as the service chair for the Missoula Sunrise Rotary, where he gets to plan fun outings with the kids living in the Partnership for Children Youth Homes. He is also part of the team that is busy organizing Missoula Pride this June, which will be the first time that Pride has returned to Missoula since 2015. You can find more information about the Missoula Pride and all of the exciting events happening on their website. We are thrilled to have Andy as one of Run Wild Missoula’s newest board members and look forward to many partnerships ahead!