Olsen hangs up political hat
by Chris Wilson
Just because Ojai's Mayor Steve Olsen isn't running for re-election
in November, doesn't mean he won't still be around town and contributing
to the community he's lived in all his life. He has just decided
to catch a different wave.
For the past 17 years, Olsen has held a public service post with
the city of Ojai, including a short stint on the Planning Commission
before being appointed to the City Council where he has held
a seat for four terms and served as mayor as many times.
But now, he says, it's time to let someone else have a chance.
"After this long on the council, there was just no compelling
reason to run again," he said. "I think it's a nice
transition to go out as mayor. I'm just honored that the people
of Ojai have allowed me the chance to have this great learning
In nearly two decades of service, he says he learned more things
than one might need or ever want to know. He learned how thick
a slurry coat should be on a street, how high a skateboard ramp
could be and the ways and means for running a meeting, a la Robert's
Rules of Order.
"I also learned how to create a resolution and draft an
ordinance," he said.
But then Olsen is all about education. After attending Monica
Ros, Ojai Valley School, Ojai Elementary, Matilija Junior High,
Nordhoff and Ventura College, he traveled to Chico for a college
degree then promptly returned to Ojai and began educating Ojai's
young people. He started by teaching outdoor environmental education
in Matilija Canyon, put in several years as a teacher and as
assistant principal at Matilija Junior High and then moved over
to Chaparral where he has held the principal post for half a
"It's a great job, because I love helping people on a daily
basis," Olsen said. Realizing that students at the continuation
school are often stereotyped, he points out the merits of looking
at each individual and seeing their qualities.
"Everybody has skills at something," he said.
In addition to holding these positions, Olsen has been selected
and helped found several other local organizations. He has been
a founding board member for the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy,
Ojai Education Foundation, C.R.E.W., and the Police Activities
League. And though he gives most of the credit to the hard work
and dedication of others on the hospital board, he was there
at the beginning when a local group of individuals banded together
and decided to buy the Ojai Valley Community Hospital.
Now moving beyond the council, Olsen said he will still be active
in a variety of community organizations, and though he hasn't
had much time to surf competitively in the past few years he
still heads to the beach regularly in mom's '53 Dodge Coronet
to catch some waves. It's been the perfect way to put the stresses
of life into perspective.
"I've always been active. I run and ski and scuba dive,"
he said. "I'd say the controversies can be a drag, but all
it takes is one good board meeting - that is between me and my
board - to put it all in perspective."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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Olsen will soon have more time to spend with his surfboard and
vintage Dodge Coronet.