Staff Reporter

A recurring theme in Greg Nelson's day involves snacks buying them, eating them, sharing them, finding a place to store them. Cookies play a particularly important role.

Just before 10 a.m., Nelson, his wild blond curls a little more contained than usual, walks briskly (he doesn't walk any other way) into his cubicle on the fourth floor of City Hall East. He plops down on his desk a just-purchased brown bag bulging with chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and ginger treats.

The bag goes untouched as Nelson, the chief of staff to Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs, checks his voicemail, turns on a television to a channel showing the council's Friday-morning meeting, and looks over memos and agendas.

Finally, Nelson can no longer resist.

"Are we going to eat these cookies?" he asks his guest. "Or are we going to sit here and look at them?"

He reaches across the desk, opens the bag, searches for a chocolate chip number and starts munching.

Nelson is not your typical City Hall aide. For one thing, he's been around awhile (almost nonstop since he was a student volunteer for Sam Yorty's 1965 mayoral campaign). In fact, he seems to be around all the time; in the last 11 years, he has taken just 10 vacation days.

He's also something of a character and it's not limited to eating cookies. The greetings on his office voicemail are a particular favorite; in one recent message, a woman's sultry voice noted that Nelson wasn't in and cooed "I feeeeel your pain."

Nelson, who went to work for Wachs in 1971 (and except for a four-year stint as a computer consultant has been with the councilman ever since), starts the morning by scanning the dailies, clipping out stories and putting them in file trays labeled "Barzu," "Mrs. Rocky," "Rachel's Mommy" and "Sir Rupert Pimm" all nicknames for Wachs' top aides.

It doesn't take long before he starts talking about a favorite subject of both Nelson and Wachs government subsidies for real estate developers. On the council's agenda today is a subsidy for TrizecHahn Corp.'s Hollywood & Highland project.

"At some point, you got to say stop it," Nelson says of such subsidies. "And that's a hard thing to do."

Moments later, the wiry 6-foot, 2-inch Nelson is rushing down a flight of stairs to council chambers to check on his boss. He gets there right before a short ceremony honoring retiring City Administrative Officer Keith Comrie.


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