Elmore mayor running for District 23A office
Bjorn Olson has wanted to run for public office for a very long time. A very long time.
Even back in eighth grade at Blue Earth Area Schools he thought about it. He studied politics and was very focused on ensuring a clean background, like not getting into anything that could come back to haunt him later in life, like when he ran for some political office.
“I know, what kid thinks about things like that,” Olson says. “But I didn’t want anything in my life to stop my goals from happening later.”
Olson is now running to be the Republican candidate on this fall’s ballot to fill the Minnesota State Legislature District 23A seat which is currently held by Rep. Bob Gunther, but will be open when Gunther retires late this year.
There are three other announced candidates running for the Republican endorsement, a process which starts at the county caucuses on Tuesday, Feb. 25.
The others are Michael Sukalski of Fairmont, Shane Schofield of Watonwan County and Tom Nelson of Jackson. That means there is a candidate from each of the four counties either whole or in part in District 23A; Faribault, Martin, Jackson and Watonwan.
That does not deter Olson from thinking he could be the choice of the Republicans in the district.
Olson is a teacher in the Blue Earth Area School District, he is the mayor of Elmore, he is a captain in the Army Reserve, and he is an active farmer.
“What better person to understand the issues concerning education than a teacher, or the issues with veterans than someone in the Army Reserves, or with agriculture than someone who is actually involved with farming,” Olson questions. “And what better person to be the state representative than someone who was born and raised in the district and has family roots that go back 135 years?”
Olson says that having served as mayor of Elmore the past few years also gave him a good first taste of holding public office.
“I really enjoy public service, and doing good for the people, whether it is the people of Elmore or all the citizens in the district,” he says.
Olson says his friends joke that his life must be pretty confusing, because he wears so many hats, and they are right.
“My life is a puzzle, for sure, and so far I have been able to put all the pieces together,” he explains. “In the spring and fall I am a farmer, in the winter I’m a teacher and in the spring and fall, of course and in the summer I am a soldier doing my military training.”
If he is elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives, something would have to give. And, he says, that unfortunately would be his teaching job.
“I would have to take an extended leave of absence from teaching,” he says. “I have not talked to the district about it yet, but I?will when I need to.”
One thing about not teaching would be that it would free up some more time for farming, besides the time needed for being a legislator.
“I would try and still do some substitute teaching,” he says. “As well as being a cross country coach, board game club coach and Knowledge Bowl coach. I really love doing those things.”
And, what about the time which would be necessary to be away from the family when the legislature is in session?
“Family is the most important thing to me,” Olson says. “So our plan is that my wife and two kids will go with me to St. Paul. They are two-years old and three-months old so they are not in school yet. Plus, we know a lot of people in the Twin Cities from college.”
But before he can make any definite plans, Olson has some serious campaigning to do. It starts with the caucuses held in each county next Tuesday, Feb. 25.
“I will have family at both Faribault and Martin counties caucuses, and I plan on attending the one in Martin County,” Olson says.
At those county caucuses delegates to the county conventions will be elected. Candidates will be endorsed at those conventions and delegates sent to the District 23A convention.
Then, if some of the other three current candidates are not endorsed they can still run in a Primary Election which will be held in August.
After that, of course, is the actual General Election, where the Republican candidate, whoever it is, could be facing competition on the ballot from a Democrat contender.
“The whole question is ‘who is the most qualified to represent this district.’ I really feel that is me,” Olson says. “I think, with my background, that I have a very good insight into all the issues and struggles in a rural district like ours and that is because I have some skin in the game. I farm, teach school and live in and am the mayor of the town of Elmore. We have had to face a few issues.”