Stewart Nelson was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Doty Avenue on the west side of the city and lived for many years on Robin Rd. He attended Mack Elementary School, Slauson Middle School, and graduated from Ann Arbor High School in 1965. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1969, and earned an MBA degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1991. Stewart is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.

Nelson was hired as a pilot by Hughes Airwest in October 1976 to fly DC-9 aircraft. At that time he was based in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Denver. He moved to Detroit in 1984 when Hughes was bought by Republic, and remained in the Detroit area when Republic entered the Northwest Airlines family. He retired in 1999 from Northwest Airlines as a 757 Captain. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1992 reaching the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Nelson currently works with Ufer & Co. Insurance Agency in Ann Arbor and has no plans to retire from that position. Stewart is married to the former Janet Berggren. Stew and Jan have two sons, Matthew Stewart Nelson (3/1/1984) and Scott Mitchell Nelson (3/16/87).

Until early 2008, Nelson served as President of the Great Lakes Water Polo Club, which reflects his own love of the sport as well as his son's involvement in high school in college. He stepped down from that presidency in order to free up time for candidacy in the August 2008 Democratic primary elections, determining the representative in that Second Ward City Council seat to which Joan Lowenstein was elected in November 2006.

Stewart has a personal blog at