Dean Nelson is the new colonel of the North Carolina Marine Patrol, and it is not a job he takes lightly.

With 21 years of experience with Marine Patrol, he knows the responsibilities that come with it.

“We’ve got the best group of officers that anyone could lead,” Nelson told family and co-workers attending his pinning ceremony Friday. “We’re going to meet every challenge that comes before us.”

Nelson, who most recently held the position of Marine Patrol major, began his new duties Aug. 1, replacing former Marine Patrol Colonel Jim Kelley, who retired July 31.

Nelson received his golden eagle wings Friday at the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries headquarters in Morehead City. Division of Marine Fisheries Director Braxton Davis praised Nelson’s extensive knowledge of marine fisheries rules and processes.

“I think you would all agree he has earned the utmost respect from everyone in the division over the years,” Davis said. “His natural-born leadership abilities will allow him to guide the Marine Patrol in the right direction for many years to come.”

One of Nelson’s first priorities as colonel will be to review all Marine Patrol policies and make sure officers in all three districts are following the enforcement guidelines.

“My goal is to ensure consistent and fair enforcement throughout the state for all citizens,” Nelson said.

He also wants to make sure the officers work together as a team. He plans to form cross-district workgroups to look at different issues as they arise.

Nelson began his career with Marine Patrol in June 1995 in the Southern District, where he was a field officer in the Sneads Ferry area. In 1999, he transferred to the Central District, where he patrolled the Down East communities of Carteret County. He was promoted to sergeant in August 2011 and to major in May 2014.

Prior to coming to Marine Patrol, he was a deputy with the Carteret County Sheriff’s Department from 1991 to 1995.

Nelson was born and raised in Harkers Island. He graduated from East Carteret High School in 1984 and received his Basic Law Enforcement Training certificate from Carteret Community College in 1990.

He lives in the Carteret County community of Davis with his wife, Amy. He has two grown children, Michaela Nelson of Otway and Mason Nelson, a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, currently posted at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. He also has one grandson, Easton Willis, 4, of Otway.

Nelson may be reached for comment at 252-808-8130 or at Forrest.Nelson@ncdenr.gov.