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Senator Jim Nielsen. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

State Senator Jim Nielsen Announces His Retirement

Nielsen’s retirement comes after over 40 years of public service

By Evan Symon, November 19, 2022 2:30 am

Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) announced his retirement on Friday, ending a long string of elected positions and board appointments dating back to the late 1970’s.

Born in 1944 in Fresno and a graduate of CSU Fresno, Nielsen first entered politics in 1978, winning an election that year to the state Senate. Establishing himself as a top Republican, Nielsen won reelection in 1982 and 1986, serving as Republican Senate leader from 1983 to 1987, becoming the youngest person ever to have held that position. In 1990 Nielsen was narrowly defeated by Democrat Mike Thompson, moving Nielsen to move to work on various state boards. In the 90’s and 2000’s, Nielsen served on the Agriculture Labor Relations Board, as well as the Board of Parole and Prison Terms.

In 2008, Nielsen restarted his political career, being elected to the Assembly. In 2012, Nielsen was then reelected to the Senate, reestablishing himself as one of the top Republicans. He continued serving until this month, announcing his retirement. In this span, he was California’s 23rd longest serving Senator and, of the 4,465 people to have ever served in the state legislature, was the 34th longest serving.

“I am retiring from public service at the end of this year and wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you and farewell. I was first elected in 1978. Since that time, I have represented 19 counties in Northern California – from the Central Valley, to the Napa Valley and up through the Sacramento Valley.

“Taking care of you, the constituent, has always been my first priority and the focus of the staff who worked with me to serve you, from issues with the DMV to the EDD, from the Oroville Dam break to the devastating Camp Fire, from budget fights to water rights. Nothing has been more important to me in my career than helping to make a positive difference in your life.

“Your support through the many years means so much to Team Nielsen. To the many millions of you that I have had the honor and privilege of serving, please accept my deepest and sincerest heart-felt thanks. My wife, Marilyn, and I plan to spend more time together, visiting our children and grandchildren, traveling and enjoying life.

“We don’t know exactly what God has in store for us, but we are excited about the possibilities. You can be assured that I am not riding off into the sunset…I am riding off into the sunrise.”

Senate colleagues from both parties, as well as Capitol workers, said on Friday how much he would be missed in Sacramento.

“Nielsen was always a class act guy,” “Dana,” who works in the Capitol, told the Globe Friday. “He was respected and really fought for what he believed in and was easy to work with.

“I think a little moment that highlights this is one time some years ago I saw a young staffer carrying a bunch of papers around, and it looked like he was in a hurry. But Senator Nielsen was standing right there, probably waiting for someone. The kid stopped when he passed him, said “Senator,” then continued moving on, out of respect. I doubt he remembers this, but it stuck with me, because I had only seen that happen before when military members did that to astronaut James Lovell and when I saw students doing that to Father Ted Hesburgh at Notre Dame. That’s the kind of level you need to be at for something like that to happen, and Nielsen garnered that. That should really tell you something about him.”

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Evan Symon
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