Olsen throws hat in ring

JAMAICA - Either way, the "Mountain Towns" will have a new voice in Montpelier in the fall. Oliver Olsen has announced his intention to run for the seat he previously held and Charles "Tim" Goodwin announced he will not be seeking re-election. Olsen, who previously held the seat as a Republican will this time be seeking election as an Independent.

"I've missed being out of that world for the last few years," he said. "I needed a bit of a break just because of a lot of things going on in my professional and family life, but this year it's a better opportunity and makes sense."

The decision to change parties is something Olsen said he has thought about quite a bit since he has left office. One of the greatest challenges the legislature faces, he said, is it is difficult for individuals with family and job responsibilities to commit time to Montpelier.

"I still have to juggle the realities that most families in our districts have to, I have to pay a mortgage, put food on the table, I have a real job, all those responsibilities really make it a challenge," he said. "The only way I can make this work effectively is if I make use of my time and part of that is really focusing on serving my constituents and stay away from some of the more partisan aspects of what goes on in Montpelier."

For Olsen, the switch was not very difficult. He has always considered himself a moderate and centrist, and his voting record is a reflection of this. Constituent relations and helping people is what Olsen missed most during his time away from politics. This is an unwritten, but extremely important part of the job, he said. It can be anything from helping someone understand a permitting process, to recently, assisting individuals in figuring out the health care system.

"Helping people navigate state government is a really critical aspect of the job and quite frankly for me one of the most satisfying parts," he said. Along with the challenge of working in the legislature while also having a job and a family, there will also be policy challenges. Olsen said the greatest challenge facing the Vermont legislature in the next few years will be how education is financed.

"The number one challenge is our education finance system, it's really beginning to show its age, that came across loud and clear with the number of school budgets across the state that failed [on Town Meeting day]," he said. "Voters throughout the state are losing confidence in the system we have today, they don't understand how it works - quite frankly very few legislators understand how the system works - it has become so complex and unwieldy. It's a system that is unsustainable and becoming un unmanageable."

In his announcement to seek re-election, Olsen said that Goodwin had served the community well, with a level-headed, calm approach when assessing difficult issues. He was happy with him as the representative in the area.

So far, Olsen has been endorsed by all five select board chairs of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R), Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D), Rep. Patti Komline (R), Rep. Jim Condon (D) and Rep. Adam Gershin (I).

Emmett Dunbar, a South Londonderry resident who previously ran for the seat, will not enter the election. He said he will be focusing on defending his master's thesis at the time.


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