Meet Carla



Carla, is the name sake of her grandfather, Carl who immigrated to America to pursue his American Dream. She is  the daughter of two public school educators and  has an extensive background in education, public service and business.

Carla earned an elementary and special education degree from Drake University and a Masters of Education from the University of Minnesota. Carla taught in small rural schools and most recently in the Rochester public schools. She has taught students in grades 1-9 as a special education teacher, a title one teacher, resource room teacher and as a middle school reading  teacher.  Carla, also a reading specialist, knows that reading well by third grade is essential to academic success, closing achievement gaps and keeping the American Dream open for all.

Carla is a small business owner and earned national recognition as a MDRT member for several years. Carla and Terry have three grown sons, two wonderful daughters in law, a precious granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.

Terry and Carla are members of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Veterans groups and are members of Autumn Ridge Church.


Republican and Democrat governors alike have appointed Carla to key state boards that demand bipartisan cooperation. Carla has been appointed to:

  • Office on the Economic Status of Women Advisory Committee
  • Minnesota Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board
  • Minnesota Higher Education Finance Authority Board
  • Minnesota Academic Excellence Foundation
  • Governor’s Workforce Development Council;
  • Serve Minnesota
  • Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.


Carla remains involved in her community and is serving or has served in a number of roles, including:

  • Rotary member
  • PEO member
  • Daughter of the American Revolution member
  • Trustee on the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust 
  • Board of Directors for the SPARKS Children’s Museum
  • Rochester Orchestra and Chorale Member
  • Served as President of Friends of Mayowood
  • Rochester Network For Reentry Board of Directors
  • Rochester Music Guild Board of Directors
  • Junior Achievement Board of Directors. 

Carla’s Awards & Endorsements During her time in elected office, Carla has received many awards and endorsements, including:

MN Police

MN Police & Peace Officers Association

MN Professional Firefighters Association

MN Professional Firefighters Association

Economic Development Legislator of Distinction

Economic Development Legislator of Distinction

Legislator of the Year

Legislator of the Year

Public Service Award

Public Service Award

Minnesota Charter School Champion Award

Minnesota Charter School Champion Award

Distinguished Advocacy Award

Distinguished Advocacy Award

MN Pipe Trades Association

MN Pipe Trades Association

Legislator of the Year Award

Legislator of the Year Award


Farm & Rural Legislator Award

Legislative Champion Award

Legislative Champion Award

School Social Work Legislator of the Year

School Social Work Legislator of the Year

farm bureau
North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters

North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters

Local Control Legislator of the Year

Local Control Legislator of the Year

Champion of Racial Justice

Champion of Racial Justice

Friend of Public Education Award

Friend of Public Education Award

Distinguished Legislator Award

Distinguished Legislator Award

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International Union of Operating Engineers

International Union of Operating Engineers

Mahu_Minnesota logo_grey
Guardian of Small Business Award

Guardian of Small Business Award

Friend of Retail Award

Friend of Retail Award

Legislator of Distinction

Legislator of Distinction

Environment Legislator of Distinction

Environment Legislator of Distinction

You can endorse Carla Nelson, too!

On November 8th, we have the opportunity to send Carla back to Saint Paul to continue working for our district. Show your support for Carla by voting on November 8th in-person, voting in-person prior to the election, or voting absentee. Learn more by clicking the link below.

On the Issues

Respecting your Budget & Fueling a Strong Economy

As a mom and a small business owner, Carla understands the impact high taxes can have on families and our economy. That’s why Carla is proud to have helped pass the first middle-class income tax cut in nearly two decades. Over the last four years, Carla has worked to use your tax dollars efficiently and get money back into your pockets:

  • Tax relief: Over $648 million in tax relief:
    • Tax Relief on Social Security Benefits
    • Student loan tax credit
    • MN State High School League sales tax exemption with savings sent back to schools
    • Moving toward federal conformity in the estate tax
    • Increases to Local Government Aid & County Program Aid
  • Safe and fair regulatory environment
  • Passed largest investment in roads and bridges since 2008
  • $1 Billion increase in funding for roads and bridges since 2016
  • $800 million in transportation bonding since 2017
  • $14 million municipal state aid for Rochester over 2 years
  • $510,000 for Stewartville street projects
  • $9.8 million annually in county highway aid for Olmsted County
  • $45 million in special funding for small town and city roads

High Quality Healthcare

Unleashing the power of our scientists, researchers and physicians will drive innovation, improve outcomes and transform the delivery of healthcare. A one-size-fits-all government-run health care system will reduce quality, choice and accessibility. Carla will continue to push for reforms that will help Minnesotans have access to quality, affordable, patient-centered health care.   

Carla worked to lower the cost of prescription drugs and drove accountability measures to ensure every dollar goes to its intended recipient. Along the way, she stopped millions of dollars of fraudulent payments.

Carla championed and got these important health reforms across the finish line:

  • Tobacco 21, Clean Indoor Air act to include vaping, and tobacco cessation resources (Quitline)
  • Opioid Epidemic Response and grants to fight opiate addiction & its impacts on public health and child welfare.  
  • School-linked mental health funding
  • Expanded telemedicine
  • Life-saving insulin program to help those unable to afford insulin 
  • Guaranteed Medical Assistance for routine patient costs incurred in qualified clinical trials


Investing in our Future

Carla believes our kids are our future and our area schools are some of the best in the state. Carla is a teacher and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and knows that education is the great equalizer.  That is why she fought for and delivered  historic education funding, innovations and reforms.

Carla focused on making child care more affordable and accessible. She increased funding for early learning scholarships, empowering more than 12,000 low income families with new opportunities and choices.

Sen. Nelson’s education budgets delivered significant and consistent year-over-year funding increases right to the classroom.  She passed historic increases for special education and school readiness. Carla increased Reading Corp tutoring and dyslexia screening too. She is the architect of new flexible safe schools grants, sending millions to our local schools for security upgrades, school counselors, psychologists, nurses, and school resource officers.

Carla’s leadership on innovative public private partnerships delivered Cradle 2 Career, Bridges to Healthcare and P-Tech to our communities. 

Reforms in teacher licensure help schools find and hire qualified teachers and the removal of LIFO (“last in, first out”) law, allows schools to consider teacher effectiveness, and not just seniority, when making tough layoff decisions.

Carla is a champion of higher education students and supported capping in-state tuition, expanding the Minnesota State Grant Program, and needed infrastructure and building projects at colleges and universities across the state such as Rochester Community College’s Memorial Hall renovation. 

Carla has received numerous education awards.


Environment & Energy

Clean water and air are two things that every human being needs.  They are a matter of life, are irreplaceable and they are top priorities for Carla. Carla believes we must be good stewards and protect our planet through common sense environmental and energy policy. That is why she championed and helped pass over $2 billion to protect and restore our environment. 
  • Funding to protect drinking water sources
  • Restoring wetlands and fish and wildlife habitats
  • Expand parks and trails
  • Preserving arts and cultural heritage funding
  • Restoration of lakes, rivers and streams
  • Funding for local soil and water conservation districts to preserve our clean water and natural resources
  • Funding to fight aquatic invasive species in our lakes and waterways.
Energy must be reliable and affordable. Carla believes energy should also be clean. Through careful resource planning and coordination Carla supports continuing Minnesota’s move to clean energy.  That is why Carla supported Clean Energy First which will prioritize clean energy first while being affordable and reliable. Minnesota can lead or nation with a flexible diverse and clean energy portfolio. 

Veterans & Seniors: Serving Those Who Served Us

  Veterans put their lives at risk to protect us and our freedoms and our seniors built this great state through their dedication, hard work and civic service. That is why Carla stands tall for our veterans and seniors and why she led and supported successful efforts to:

  • Fully fund our Military and Veterans Affairs budget & the Medal of Honor Memorial
  • Expand the Veterans Service Centers in the MSP airport
  • Reduce taxation on military and SS pensions and benefits
  • Pass the Veterans Restorative Justice Act
  • Landmark protections for residents in nursing home and assisted living

Representing our Communities Proudly serving Chatfield, Dover, Dover Township, Elmira Township, Eyota, Eyota Township, Farmington Township, Haverhill Township, High Forest Township, Marion Township, Orion Township, Pleasant Grove Township, Quincy Township, Rochester, Rochester Township, Rock Dell Township, Salem Township, Stewartville & Viola Township

Carla has a long record of working across the aisle, building coalitions and finding solutions. Her accomplishments are making SE Minnesota communities a better place to live, work and play. Here are just a few of them:

Collegiate Recovery

Established collegiate recovery program at University of Minnesota – Rochester


COVID funding for the Mayo and University of MN partnership to ramp up testing, treatment and vaccines

Childcare Funding

Childcare Grants for providers in rural Minnesota

Highway 14 Expansion

Highway 14 expansion from Rochester to Owatonna

Cradle to Career

Rochester Cradle to Career – equitable, results-based investments in children and their families

Rochester PTECH

A high school pipeline to employment in collaboration with Rochester Public Schools, IBM, Mayo Clinic, and RCTC

Chester Woods Trail

Chester Woods State Trails Appropriation

The Reading Center

Worked to secure funding for The Reading Center – Dyslexia Institute of Minnesota

Bridges to Healthcare

Funding to provide career education and job skills training in high-demand healthcare fields

RCTC Expansion

Passed funding to replace Memorial & Plaza Halls at Rochester Community and Technical College

RCTC Renovation

Rochester Community and Technical College Workforce Center Renovation

CEDA Study

Community Economic Development study to help SE Minnesota communities grow

Children's Museum

Secured funding for the Minnesota Children’s Museum in Rochester

Airport Improvements

Border and Customs improvements to the Rochester International Airport


Recovery Funding

Expanded Substance Use Recovery Funding for MN Adult & Teen Challenge in Rochester.

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