Essential Texans: Chris Nelson - CFO, Texas Workforce Commission
The Texas Workforce Commission was created in 1995 by the Texas Legislature to consolidate employment-related education and job training programs across the state. In addition, TWC was tasked with administering unemployment insurance and other labor law programs. Since its creation, TWC has revolutionized the way employment and training services are deployed all across the state. At its core, TWC aims to match job seekers with employers and provide opportunities for those that face obstacles in the workplace.
Chris Nelson serves as the current Chief Financial Officer for TWC and works at the downtown Austin headquarters.
Chris Nelson’s journey with TWC began over 20 years ago and took him from a position as a clerk in accounting to the CFO. His story starts during his college days as a young man with an accounting major and absolutely no furniture. After seeing a job posting for an accounting clerk at TWC, he figured it was the perfect fit. He could gain experience in the accounting field while making some money to furnish his apartment. A win-win and (as it turns out) a match made in heaven.
Nelson’s career with TWC was not without some doubt. After he graduated college and had been with the agency for about four years, he seriously considered leaving state work and taking a position in the private sector. It’s a decision that many state employees face during their careers, so he wasn’t surprised to find himself at a crossroad. A former director encouraged him to check out another job opportunity within the agency before he made the leap. Seeing that opportunity and that willingness of leadership to push for the best for their employees, even if it meant losing someone to another department, helped Chris make up his mind to stay with TWC.
This is where he learned a valuable lesson that would stick with him through the next twenty plus years as he rose through the ranks at TWC. “Don’t chase money, chase opportunity.” He found that when he was willing to put his hand up for new experiences and projects, he was given a wealth of chances to try and learn new things.
Over the years, Chris has seen this scenario play out over and over; leaders at TWC are always willing to go to bat for employees and help them advance, even if it means seeing that employee leave their team for a new opportunity.
Some of his proudest moments with TWC came about during the worst of times. In April 2020, TWC was flooded with two years’ worth of unemployment claims in the space of two months.
That means that between March 14, 2020 and May 30, 2020, 2.3 million people submitted initial unemployment claims. During the same timeframe in 2019, there were 142,000 initial claims. The pandemic hit the job market hard and TWC struggled under the weight of so many Texas citizens in need. But instead of throwing in the towel, Chris was struck by the can-do attitude of everyone at headquarters. Every single person found a way to pitch in and help work through the seemingly endless pile of claims. It really put into perspective the true spirit of public service.
Of all the things he’d like to see evolve at TWC, Chris would love to welcome a new group of young up-and-comers to the agency. “There is so much value in public service.” He’s always on the lookout for the next accounting clerk with big CEO dreams like himself.
From a fresh-out-of-college accounting clerk to a CFO managing budgets and trust funds of multiple billions of dollars, Chris Nelson is truly a credit to the Texas Workforce Commission and to the state of Texas. His story illustrates that TWC is not only deeply committed to helping Texans on their career journeys but are just as dedicated to seeing those in their own agency succeed as well.
Thank you Chris for being an Essential Texan. If you would like to be entered into a gift card drawing, complete this form and add your answer to the following question in the comment part of the form. How many unemployment claims did TWC get between March to May of 2020?
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