Onward and Upward: Erik Robert Olson

Age: 30

Hometown: La Crosse, Wis.

Marital status/children: Single, no kids

Last job: Policy adviser for Rep. Kind

First job: Paperboy in middle school; first job with Rep. Kind, campaign field director (1999-2001)

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Most unusual job: Loss prevention specialist (catching shoplifters) at Shopko in La Crosse, Wis.

Most embarrassing moment: “I was walking up the Metro escalator one morning and dropped my iPod, and when I bent over to pick it up, I split my suit pants very badly. It was loud, and several people below me on the escalator clearly saw it happen.”
Management style: “I would say my style is democratic. I try and give my staff a lot of latitude to make decisions within their particular domains, and when larger decisions need to be made, I try and bring people together to take part in decisionmaking.”

Number of cups of coffee you drink per day: One or less

Religion: Buddhist

Favorite political TV show or movie: “The West Wing”

Most inspirational figure: “My father.”

Dream job (not including present one): Chief of staff for the president

College: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Passion outside work: Volunteering with Horton’s Kids

Claim to fame: “I am a crazy morning person and usually start my day at 4:30 a.m.”

When Erik Olson was 18, his father waved an envelope at him and said, “This is my Democratic Party dues — and yours.” Olson was a Democrat henceforth.

In actuality, Olson, Rep. Ron Kind’s (D-Wis.) new chief of staff, was bleeding blue much before then.

At age 10, his parents took him to a rally for Al Gore’s 1988 presidential run. During that same election cycle, he spent three hours trying to call into Nickelodeon’s Kids Vote to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis (he never got through).

Once Olson became a dues-paying Democrat, he started going to party meetings, and he eventually landed an internship with Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.). In 1999, he landed a low-paying campaign job for Kind. Ten and a half years later, he runs the congressman’s Washington office.
Olson is now focused on helping his boss in the epic legislative effort to reform healthcare. Kind is on the Ways and Means Committee.

“He’s been studying this issue for a long time, getting ready for this moment,” Olson said.

He said he also supports his boss’s work on environmental issues, pointing out that Kind’s district has the longest stretch of the Mississippi River in the country.

He admires his boss’s intelligence but joked that it has both benefits and drawbacks. Kind is a quick study on any issue, Olson said, and he always comes back to the office with a bevy of new ideas — and more work for his staff.

“He’s a really smart guy, and he keeps us running,” he said. “He’s a good boss.”

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