The son of a Marine Corps attorney and an elementary school teacher, Michael Nelson was born at Camp LeJeune Marine Corps Base near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Mike spent most of his childhood in Onslow County, where he attended elementary, junior high and high school.
Growing up, Michael was always interested in politics and history. As a teenager, he worked for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, served as a Governor's Page, and read voraciously biographies of world leaders and political histories.
Mike came to Uiversity of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, in 1982 and majored in political science. During his college years, Mike was active in local and UNC politics. He managed the campaign of a candidate for the Chapel Hill Town Council while still an undergraduate.
In addition, he volunteered in state legislative, congressional and presidential campaigns. On campus, Mike was active in the gay and lesbian student association, student government, and the anti-apartheid movement.
He began volunteering with the local Democratic Party during his freshman year and continues to be involved to this day. Mike was elected precinct chair of East Franklin precinct while still an undergraduate and went on to serve as chair of Dogwood Acres precinct in Carrboro. In the early 1990's, local Democrats elected Mike vice-chair of the Orange County Democratic Party and to the state executive committee.
He has attended three Democratic National Conventions (1992, 1996, and 2000), the first two as a Clinton delegate and the third as a Gore delegate.
After college, Mike decided to stay in the area. He worked for NARAL, the National AIDS Hotline, and founded NC Pride PAC. Pride PAC was North Carolina's first political action committee to focus exclusively on the issues of importance to the lesbian and gay community, such as civil rights protection, privacy rights, hate crimes, and electing gay-friendly candidates to public office. Mike became the group's first executive director and led Pride PAC.
Mike first ran for the Carrboro Board of Aldermen in 1989, losing that year to an entrenched incumbent by only about 30 votes. He waited four years to run again and won handily in 1993.
When Mayor Eleanor Kinnaird decided to retire in 1995, Mike unexpectedly found himself in a race for mayor. Mike hadn't planned on running for Mayor and only jumped in after two other progressive potential candidates bowed out. Winning handily, Mike garnered as many votes as the other two put together. Mayor Mike went on to win re-election in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003.
Mike is an avid bridge player. He is also well known for his travels. Mike traveled to Oaxaca, Mexico recently where he participated in a Spanish immersion program. He hopes this will help him do a better job of communicating with his Spanish-speaking constituents.