The District 2 seat, which represents east Thurston County, including Lacey, was previously held by Alan Corwin. Corwin resigned before the end of 2012.
Olsen, 38, was among five candidates who applied to fill the vacancy. All five participated in a group interview Tuesday night. The interview, which took about 90 minutes, began with opening statements from each candidate. This was followed by six interview questions, including a group exercise question, Thurston PUD general manager John Weidenfeller said.
After a half-hour spent in executive session, the commission emerged to discuss the candidates and then voted to select Olsen.
Mason County PUD No. 1 commissioner Jack Janda also sat in to observe the interviews. Although he didnt have a vote, he provided input to the commission on what he saw and heard.
Im obviously excited, Olsen said Wednesday about his appointment. Im looking forward to working with the other commissioners and on the critical components to help the PUD move forward.
Olsen grew up in the Thompson Place/Tanglewilde area of the county, one of the original service areas for the water utility.
I was always aware we were on a different water system, he said, adding that one of his key interests in becoming a commissioner is to make sure water rates are affordable.
On the issue of whether the utility should pursue public power, a hot-button issue that thrust the PUD into the spotlight last year, Olsen said the PUD should focus on what it is legally authorized to do, which is manage its water systems.
Olsen is a voluntary cleanup program unit supervisor for Ecology. He earned a bachelors degree in political science and criminal justice from Saint Martins University in 1997, and a masters degree in public administration from Seattle University in 2005.
District 1 commissioner Linda Oosterman picked Olsen because he demonstrated leadership skills during the group exercise portion of the interview, and he was a good fit for the board.
I felt that he would represent the PUD with the utmost professionalism, she said.
District 3 commissioner Chris Stearns said he had three criteria for a new commissioner: how well they would collaborate with the board; how qualified they were on water issues; and how well they would represent their district.
I came to the conclusion that Russ (Olsen) would be my first choice, Stearns said.
Olsen is set to be sworn in Feb. 26. His appointment lasts until November 2014 when he will have to decide whether to run for election. If elected, PUD commissioners serve six-year terms.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403 email@example.com theolympian.com/bizblog