Candidate profile: Olson wants to make city government more effective
Running for one of two open West Linn City Council seats in November's election won't be Vicki Olson's first foray into politics.
In 2004, Olson staged a run for to represent Gresham's House District 50 in the Oregon Legislature, losing the Republican primary to John Lim, who went on to win the seat.
Despite the loss, Olson learned a lot from the experience. The campaign also led to her career as a legislative assistant in Salem for the past 15 years.
"I wanted to make a difference. So you jump into this pool not knowing anything. And then you're just, like, drowning. But I learned a lot," Olson said.
Following her run for the Legislature, Olson began working as an assistant to Rep. Linda Flores, a Republican from District 51. For the past 15 years, Olson has worked as a legislative assistant for several other Republican representatives including Cliff Bentz, Jason Conger, Gene Whisnant and Greg Barreto.
Olson believes the skills she's learned working in the Legislature will serve her well as a city councilor.
Olson said a lot of her time in the legislature has revolved around working with constituents to help them solve issues. Skills such as communication and problem solving were critical to this effort, she said.
Olson also serves on West Linn's Committee for Citizen Involvement and previously served on Clackamas County's Commission for Children and Family.
Olson said she joined the CCI this year to become more involved in her own community.
In her work with the CCI and in recent conversations with voters, Olson said she's learned more about West Linn issues she'd like to address as a councilor.
One of the first she mentioned was tolling on I-205.
"I'm not exactly sure what we can do about the tolling because I think the tolling machine is moving," she said.
The candidate also said she's heard concerns about the functioning of the government at City Hall, possibly caused by a misunderstanding of the city's underlying structure.
The mayor, councilors and city manager, she said, need to have a better understanding of their specific roles.
"The roles and responsibilities are just blurred everywhere," Olson said. "And structure is missing because it seems that it's not very efficient or effective."
Olson said she'd also like to work on police reform to hold the police department accountable. Among her ideas are de-escalation training, community engagement with people of color, and keeping better track of officers' excessive use of force. She was also excited to hear ideas from the new Police Accountability Task Force.
Additionally, Olson mentioned the need to bring more businesses to West Linn to help spread the burden of taxes.
"Why aren't businesses coming to West Linn? Do we not have property for them?" she asked. "Is there something legislatively that we need to do? Is there something at City Hall that we need to address?"
House Bills 2001 and 2003, which passed the Oregon Legislature in 2019 and require cities of more than 25,000 residents to allow for more medium-density housing such as townhomes and duplexes, was another concern of Olson's. She said the city needs to do a better job of informing residents of what this law may do so they won't be surprised when a triplex goes up in their neighborhood.
Lastly, Olson said she wants to get the community involved with plans for development along the waterfront and Highway 43.
According to Olson, connecting with voters during the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, but a challenge that's forced her to grow. So far, her campaign has used social media, neighborhood association meetings and walks around neighborhoods to hand out fliers as ways to connect with residents.
"This journey has been very interesting," she said. "So I'm really out of my comfort zone."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.