Civic leader William “Bill” Nielsen is Exeter Union High School’s 2017 Alumnus of the Year

@TheSunGazette

EXETER – Civic-minded and with business acumen to admire, Bill Nielsen helped create two of the Valley’s most successful insurance companies in his hometown of Exeter, developed products tailored to his agricultural surrounding, and earned his industry’s highest professional designation. Bill credits much of his success to his hometown and alma mater for investing in him and he has spent a lifetime making sure the community has received a full return on its investment, with a lot of interest.

William Clarence “Bill” Nielsen is Exeter Union High School Alumni Foundation’s 2017 Alumnus of the Year. Submitted photo.

William Clarence “Bill” Nielsen is
Exeter Union High School Alumni Foundation’s 2017 Alumnus of the Year. Submitted photo.

Shortly after celebrating his 80th birthday, William “Bill” Clarence Nielsen was announced as the Exeter Union High School Alumnus of the Year during the first quarter of the Monarchs Nov. 3 homecoming game in their newly remodeled Exeter Stadium. There, in a stadium he helped fund, on the sidelines with players he provides scholarships to, before a crowd of a community he helped to mold, Bill reflected on his adolescence at Exeter Union High School (EUHS).

“EUHS helped prepare me for the world beyond my wildest imagination,” Bill said of his alma mater.

During his high school days, Bill played four years of football, ran track, served as vice president of the Spanish Club and president of CSF his senior year (a Life CSF Member), and was the recipient of the Bank of America Math Award. Bill graduated from EUHS in 1955. He even had a lead in a school play and was a saxophone player in the school band for four years. He continues to be the epitome of Monarch Pride.

To express his gratitude to the administration and teachers who taught him so well, Bill had dedicated a lifetime of volunteer work and charitable giving to the high school. He ran and served for five years as Clerk of EUHS Board, a roll that included building a new gym and the acquisition of Dobson Field. As a member of the EUHS Alumni Association, he helped roll out the Brick Fundraising campaign for the EUHS Alumni Park located on the corner of East Palm and North Cedar. Bill also partnered with his son, David, to purchase the new football scoreboard. Two years ago, Bill, and his son David, announced the Nielsen & Associate’s Insurance Bill Springer Scholarship Award for the best EUHS football player in remembrance of the school’s first football coach. The scholarship is named after Bill’s grandfather, William “Bill” Springer, who was the first football coach at EUHS in 1915. His mother, Nourhalma “Nourie” Katherine Springer, graduated from EUHS in 1929, kicking off a family legacy that continued with Bill’s three children (Laura, Julie, and David) and two of his five grandchildren.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in real estate at Fresno State, Bill joined the California Army National Guard. He reported to basic training at Fort Ord and then Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas for medical training. He became a medic and served for five and half years in the Reserves. He later served as a voluntary EMT for the Exeter Ambulance Service started by Don Evans.

Bill began his insurance career in 1960 with the Insurance Company of North America (INA) in San Jose and Philadelphia. In 1964 he returned to Exeter to join his father C.R. Nielsen at the firm of Nielsen & Eddy Insurance, which was founded as Nielsen & Balam Insurance in the early 1940s. Bill quickly invested himself into the community by serving on the Chamber of Commerce Board and became President of the Tulare/Kings County Independent Insurance Agents Association.

In 1974, Bill successfully orchestrated a merger with his only competition Ross D. Sellars & Sons. The merger retired his dad and Guriox Sellars. The combination took on the name NSE Insurance, an abbreviation for Nielsen, Sellars and Eddy.

As the firm flourished, Bill built a solid foundation in his hometown that allowed him take on a more regional role. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, Bill was chairman of the Big I Commercial Line Committee and Chairman of the Big I Education Committee for the insurance industry in California.  In 1976 Bill received his Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) degree, the highest professional designation in the insurance industry, equivalent to a CPA designation in accounting.

In 1984 Bill negotiated a business divorce from the company he created and formed Nielsen & Associates Insurance Services.

Bill had a large book of contractor clients before the freeze of 1990 changed the profile of the agency to agri-business clients. Multiple Peril Crop Insurance was available to citrus growers, but they felt no need to purchase it prior to the first real freeze. From that day forward, things changed and Nielsen & Associates Insurance became one the state’s largest providers of crop insurance to the citrus industry.  Bill saw a need and therefore created a special freeze policy for packing houses that is still written today. Today, the insurance agency provides crop insurance for 27 different crops grown in the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast of California. His career provided Bill with the means and mind to travel to every to every state and visit countless foreign countries.

The first Nielsen & Associates Insurance Services office was located in the old Gill Cattle Company building on North E Street, a building Bill and Sharon Mumma bought and shared until moving their headquarters to 100 North C Street (Exeter Police Department today). Today, the agency is headquartered at 502A N. Kaweah Ave., an office complex designed by Bill, and now under the leadership of Bill’s son, David Nielsen.

During all those years, Bill sponsored approximately 100 youth sports teams in baseball and basketball. He became a deacon in the Exeter Presbyterian Church where he and his wife, Charlene, chaired the teen group.  Later he served on the Exeter Hospital Board and was responsible for doctor recruitment. He was appointed to serve on the Tulare County Facilities Committee by Supervisor Bill Sanders, was the president of Harbor Cove Homeowners Association in Santa Cruz, Calif., and served as president of Badger Hill Homeowners Association. In 1998, Bill was asked to represent the City of Exeter on the Board of the Tulare County Economic Development Corporation of which he later became President in 2001. Bill also joined the Masonic Lodge and the Shrine. He is a 50-year member of the Exeter Kiwanis Club where he served on the board.

Bill’s career in insurance is impressive but it was his decision to seek that success in his hometown that led to his legacy of leadership for his community. It provided him the opportunity to serve his community in every capacity, provide him total financial security which afforded him the ability to give so generously to causes he felt were worthy. But most all, it allowed him to raise his children and grandchildren in a safe, charming town, which he considers his greatest accomplishment.

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