Citizen of the Year is a real gem
Dan Olson is a State Farm agent. He’s a weed picker, and a flower planter. He’s a hot dog seller and an ice sweeper. He meets with peers in board rooms and with kids in gymnasiums. He’s a true Monticelloan who does a little bit of everything. And for that, he has been named the 2012 Monticello Citizen of the Year.
The award, which is given out by a combination of the Lions Club, Chamber and the Rotary Club, came as a surprise to Olson. But probably not to those who know him. Since he moved here in 1984, fresh out of college, Olson has been making a difference in the community – often through one small task after another.
“Twenty-eight years ago I hang a sign up, probably took a week before people started saying can you give us a hand with this or that,” said Olson.
Olson wasn’t complaining. Instead he jumped right in to almost every opportunity that came his way. He was after all trying to build a business.
“It was truly the cardboard box,” said Olson, of his job when he first started. He had opened up a new State Farm office meaning he had no accounts, and was starting from scratch. He couldn’t even insure his own family, as his dad was a State Farm agent in Buffalo.
Olson needed to start meeting people. Luckily, or perhaps out of necessity, it’s one of his passions.
So, he joined the Chamber, and he joined Rotary. Shortly thereafter he joined the Industrial and Economic Development Committee. He was on the Chamber board. He coached the varsity baseball team for a year. He got involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. And he met people.
“It’s the people I enjoy most,” said Olson. “What do I like most about working? The people. Volunteering is different people.”
Through those early years, Olson built a foundation of volunteering and a network of people that could rely on him when they needed help with a task. That foundation has held strong through today.
He continues to give back in almost every venue imaginable around town. Olson volunteers to sell hot dogs at the Pelican Lake Ice Fishing tournament, he assists John Reeves with the FCA, he plants flowers at Otter Creek, and he delivers meals on wheels to those who need the assistance. He also opens up the gym for baseball players at six a.m. on January mornings, and shovels off the pond in his backyard for kids to come play broomball on.
“I don’t do anything I don’t like to do,” said Olson. “There are enough things that fit me.”
When pressed, Olson admits that he has yet to really come across something that doesn’t fit him.
“Apparently I’m pretty easy to please,” he said, before adding that even the smallest volunteer duties give him a sense of satisfaction. “It really does feel good. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it can be picking weeds for an hour. It’s just the people you get to know.”
If there is anything that Olson thinks might not fit him, it’s this award. As quick as he is to volunteer, he’s equally quick to deflect credit.
“It’s really been pretty easy. I haven’t spearheaded anything, I think that’s where the burnout can come in,” said Olson, who added that he is most impressed by the passionate people who take these causes on from start to finish.
“I haven’t really pursued anything other than trying to raise your hand once in a while when somebody needs somebody to do something.”
But clearly, he’s made a difference. And he is thankful for that. He’s also thankful for an incredibly supportive wife and two great children. And he’s thankful for what he labels as “a great, great town”, and a town that pushes him to continue his giving ways.
“They’ve (all of his organizations) paid me back way more than I’ve done for them,” said Olson. “Whether it’s the chamber, or the school for my kids and all the great things they got out of it, or the FCA which was a big part of my life growing up…”
“Actually, when I think about it, I think ‘man, maybe I need to do a little more.’”