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Chris Nielsen Takes Lead Role on Solvang Theaterfest Board

Chris Nielsen Click to view larger
Chris Nielsen

The Board of Directors of Solvang Theaterfest has elected Chris Nielsen as its new chair. Nielsen joined the board as a director in 2013 and became chair on Jan. 1.

He is a financial advisor and certified financial planner with Edward Jones, and has his own office in Los Olivos.

A Solvang native, Nielsen's ancestry in the Santa Ynez Valley goes back 100 years. His grandfather C.V. Nielsen founded Nielsen Building Materials in 1948.

Nielsen graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1985.

Serving his country took Nielsen around the world. Domestic assignments included California, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and Florida. Internationally, he saw active duty in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, and Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.

He met his wife Diane while stationed at Camp Pendleton in the mid-1990s. They have three children, twin sons Kyle and Ben, and daughter Gillian. The kids were all of pre-school age as Nielsen approached his 20th anniversary in the military.

Wanting to give them the opportunity to grow up in the Valley, Nielsen said he retired in 2006, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Nielsen’s professional transition was almost serendipitous, he said. After settling back in the Valley with his family, he took a meeting with a financial advisor, who suggested this could be the ideal second career for Nielsen.

“I’d always been interested as a personal investor, and I had a lot of management and budget experience from the military,” Nielsen said.

In addition to Solvang Theaterfest, Nielsen serves on the boards of the Vikings of Solvang, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse, Solvang Lutheran Home Endowment Fund, and Solvang Lutheran Home Inc.

Nielsen was 12 years old when the bike ride between his home on Willow Drive and Solvang School took him up 2nd Street where Solvang Festival Theater was under construction.

Knowing the impact the theater has had on his community the last four decades, Nielsen called his board “energized” about the future. “We’re taking steps to ensure we have another 40 years,” he said.

Solvang Theaterfest is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) corporation that owns, operates and maintains Solvang Festival Theater.

— Mary Ann Norbom for Solvang Theaterfest.

 
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