by Sheila

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October 11, 2012
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Election 2012: Uniting community remains incumbent's goal

County Commissioner Mike Olson got his taste for politics as a 12-year-old when he and his friends lobbied for a motocross track in his neighborhood of Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.He was hooked on the public process, but reserved any aspirations until moving to Douglas County in 1998.“Running for office is not something I would have ever done in any other community. Here, we have a neat opportunity to bring ideas forward,” said Olson, 50.Olson is seeking a second term as Douglas County commissioner representing District 5 which covers northeastern Douglas County and the Jacks Valley, Indian Hills area in the west.He served five years on the county planning commission.Olson ran for county commission in 2008, he said, to bring unity to Douglas County.“I really hated our community being so divided,” he said of the political atmosphere at the time of his election.Since he was elected, the county worked through a controversial and complicated water consolidation, and dealt with sewage rates, unemployment, declining casino revenues, and other factors brought about by the national recession that hurt communities across the United States.Serving the different populations as a commissioner is a balancing act, Olson said.“Every decision you make is a challenge. We have a lot of intelligent, smart people who come here to retire, and they’re not done living. That is a good thing,” he said. “We’ve always been a community of general improvement districts, and towns. It’s OK for us to have identities, but how about we have the identity of being a good place to live?”Olson said he spends 30 hours a week on commission business in addition to his full-time job as a manager of risk services for Pro Group Management. Olson said his first year on the job, he didn’t say much at meetings as he navigated “a real learning curve.”The next two years, commissioners elected him board chairman.“I go to every event, I read all my e-mails and messages and return phone calls,” he said. “I believe I am the best candidate because I have experience.”Olson said he wasn’t “terribly surprised” that he finished second in the June primary to challenger Barry Penzel.“My goal was to go to the next race,” he said.Despite the setback, Olson said many residents have offered him support.As for his chances in November, Olson said, “I couldn’t gauge it right now.”He cited a “proven track record,” and his abilities to work with others and solve problems as strong points.“I am already involved and up to speed on the issues. We’ve had an economy that’s just been terrible. We’ve had a problem with foreclosures, and unemployment. We’ve lost 3,000 construction jobs and that’s affected our school enrollment and property values,” Olson said.Olson, a Jacks Valley resident, said he is able to take the misperceptions and criticism that come with being a county commissioner.“I was taught that everybody is allowed to have their own perceptions. I believe everyone has an opportunity to say what is on their mind. I am a big boy. It doesn’t keep me from serving them. It doesn’t matter who they are. I can always listen,” he said.Olson said he believes the most frequent critics represent a small portion of the population. If he has any regrets, Olson said it would be the controversial planning commission appointments while he was county commission chairman. Commissioners voted 4-1 on Jan. 3, 2011, to replace three planning commissioners. After an open meeting law complaint was filed suggesting collusion among board members, the Attorney General’s office cleared the commission.“The planning commission issue probably could have been handled better. I would do it differently now,” he said.Olson was criticized for a failed attempt to pressure planning commissioner Margaret Pross into resigning.“A lot of it was not understanding the process,” he said.His goals for next term include seeing the Douglas County Community & Senior Center through to completion as well as the federal lands bill. He supports the county’s efforts to attract jobs through the Economic Vitality Plan and updating Stateline.“I want people to go out and make money so they can eat,” he said.

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The Record Courier Updated Oct 11, 2012 07:25PM Published Oct 11, 2012 07:22PM Copyright 2012 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.