Republican Lisa Olsen, 53, is a lifelong Pacific County resident. She and her husband Phil Olsen live in South Bend. A graduate of South Bend High School, Olsen has worked as an appraiser in the County Assessor’s Office for more than 30 years.

Olsen previously served as a school board commissioner, and has been on the South Bend City Council since 2010. In addition to coordinating the annual “Come and Play on Labor Day” festival, Olsen is the board chair the South Bend United Methodist Church, serves as a trustee for the Raymond Pool, and is active in the Lady Elks and Eagles Auxiliary.

Olsen said she is running because she wants to use her professional experience and interpersonal skills to improve efficiency and increase collaboration in county government.

Lisa, why do you want to be a commissioner?

I’ve been working for the county for 35 years. It just seems like a natural progression. I’ve had ideas for a long time about things I think we can do differently, and better. It just seems like the time is right.

What have you learned from your previous experiences in office about being a good leader?

You’re pretty much there to listen to people, and to guide the ship.

You don’t give a thought sometimes to what goes into making a town run. You don’t pay attention to until you’re actually responsible. Then you go, “Well now, that’s not going to work! We’ve got to look at that.” It’s been really enlightening to know what goes into things.

What do you feel your strengths would be as a commissioner?

The best quality you can have is to listen, and to take people’s opinions into consideration when making decisions. Being able to cooperate and network with people — I do that fairly well, and I think that’s something that a good commissioner should be able to do.

There are people in this county that need to be tapped into. I think they have wonderful ideas and life experience that would help us make good decisions.

Are you saying you think you would take a more collaborative approach?

I hope so. Even nationally, there is a lot of apathy. People don’t tend to get involved as much as they used to you. I think if we can bring more people into the process, it’s always good.

Describe two or three professional accomplishments that you feel especially proud of.

I have been the chair of the “Come and Play on Labor Day”. It’s a lot of work, and collaboration and bringing people together. I volunteer for lots of different things, and I think that almost qualifies me more than my time on the boards.

What do your critics say about you?

I don’t know. I don’t get a ton of calls about, “You did this” and “I don’t like that.” Usually when I get calls, it’s “I want to ask you about this,” or “I want to tell you about this.”

I’m not perfect by any means, but I can’t think of an instance where anybody has said I didn’t listen to them. I disagree with people, but usually I do it very respectfully.

Overall, do you think Pacific County is in better, or worse shape than it was four years ago?

Basic quality of life here, I think is wonderful, because we’re so slow-paced.

I think the drug problem is a huge issue, but it’s an issue everywhere. That’s something that we need to be very cognizant of.

Which aspects of county government are functioning well right now, and which are not?

I think we’re all doing pretty well with the funds that we have. Everybody’s pretty much getting along okay.

We really could be doing a better job on our staffing as a whole. There are a couple departments that we need to look at their spending. Maybe it’s justified, maybe it’s not. Our excess money is usually from timber. It comes and goes. We need to be doing the best job we can to save some of that, when it’s available, instead of spending it on bright and flashy objects.

There have been very few female commissioners, and women are underrepresented in government at all levels. Do you think gender matters in politics?

I think it’s great to have a woman in office. I think it’s kind of like having the balance of political views, because women think differently than men. It’s just how we were built. It’s good to have that balance.

It has been many years since a Republican was elected commissioner. Do you think party membership matters in the commissioner’s role?

I really don’t. There really isn’t an avenue to be partisan. Very little anyway. Mostly, it’s just common sense, good decisions and good communication skills.

When people encouraged you to run for commissioner, were they saying, “We need to get a Republican in there!”?

No, actually, that came later. The encouragement was, “I think it’s a great idea and I think you’d do a great job.”

Pacific County residents have a strong tendency to vote the Democratic Party line. Do you think you’re moderate enough to appeal to Democrats?

Oh, I think so. I think they should vote for me because I have common sense, and I have good values and I love this county. I want what’s best for it, and I don’t think that’s a partisan thing.

How would you describe the state of public safety in Pacific County right now?

Quite honestly, struggling. They’ve lost some deputies, and they’re constantly trying to keep up with the demand for police and dispatch. I think most of the people that are working for Public Safety are in it for the right reasons and they’re just as frustrated, probably with their limitations as the public.

Do you think that money is at the heart of those problems or do you think it is something else?

Well I don’t want to act like I can talk expertly on that. But something’s not working. The goal would be to have two deputies on duty and each end, 24/7. That would be fantastic. Can we afford it? I don’t know. If we can’t afford to have all the bells and whistles, then we can’t, but we need to have coverage. It is a countywide problem that we don’t get paid as much as other places.

Do you think that decision to impose a mental health sales tax has paid off?

Absolutely. We have to do what we can, here locally. We are woefully inadequately addressing the mental health issues out there, which in turn create drug and public safety issues. I think anything we can do is good.

What do you think of the county’s proposal to vacate Upper Naselle Road?

I actually drove out there, just to look at it. It’s not at all what I thought it was. That whole hillside came down. I don’t know what the right answer is there, but I know the county should do whatever it can not to cut those people off. I hope we can do something productive to make those properties accessible.

The county has been engaged in a years-long dispute with Dan Driscoll over his Oysterville retail business. After both local courts made decisions that were largely favorable to Dan, the county is appealing the decision in the state court of Appeals. Why do you think the county is still pursuing this, and do you agree with the decision?

I don’t feel terribly comfortable commenting. I think it’s a really poor use of county funds and private citizen funds to have to go this far to to come to an agreement. I hope that we don’t find ourselves in that situation again. When you get into a place like that, the attorneys are the only ones that make money.

What do you think the commissioners could have done differently?

I think had I been in there, I would have maybe stepped in a little sooner to make sure it didn’t get this far.

The DCD has a notoriously unstable budget, has gone through major staff changes, and continues to struggle with an overwhelming workload. What do you think you could do to make the DCD run more smoothly?

Stabilize their budget — they run so much off grants. Maybe there’s things that need to be done out of different departments. I think we can shuffle the deck a little bit, and make things work more productively. We’ve been doing things the same way for a long time. I think we could consolidate a little and spend our money a little more wisely.

Do you think the legal marijuana industry has been good for our county?

I have a couple friends that clip. They love it. They think it’s a great job. But one of the things that distresses me slightly is that the state has taxed the heck out of this industry, and we’re not getting any of it. We’re the ones that are having to help develop the infrastructure and the utilities, and we’re not getting any of the money. That’s just wrong.

If you are elected, what will be your top priorities during your next year in office?

Becoming extremely familiar with the budget would be my top priority. Making sure that we’re supporting the public safety portion of the county, and also expecting them to be as good as they can be.

DCD really seems to be the Whipping Boy of the county right now. Whether or not it’s deserved, it needs to get better. We’ve got some good people working for the county, and they need to be need to be able to do their jobs. But we also need to be doing the job so that the public perceives that we’re doing it for them, not against them.

Would you resign from the city council if you were elected? What about your job in the county?

I wanted to finish on my term, because I have two years left, but I don’t think that’s an option. I think it’s a conflict. I can’t be my own boss! I would be leaving the assessor’s office and being a commissioner.

The commissioners say they work six or seven days a week, and spend a lot of time on the road. What kind of time commitment are you prepared to make for this job?

I’ll be there as much has I need to be. I get approached in the grocery store all the time, whether it’s about city or Labor Day. I do some of my best work in the grocery store!

What can you offer the public that you opponent can’t?

I don’t want to say anything bad about Steve. I like Steve.

Some people would say that’s a bad thing, I think it’s a good thing — my experience at the county. I don’t have to learn what all the departments do. Good or bad, I already have predispositions about who does a good job, who, maybe not so much. But I’m also open to finding out. I want to learn more about what the challenges are, and how they run their departments, and help them make good decisions.

Why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me because I’m very concerned about the county. It’s genuine. This is not something I’m doing to advance myself. I want to use what I have learned and my experiences and my connections to make things better.

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