Last fall, the Modesto-native’s fellow Republicans elected her to succeed the highly respected but termed-out Connie Conway of Tulare. Just 40 years old, Olsen became one of the youngest legislative leaders in the country. We sat down with her recently to discuss her legislative priorities for this year and the future.
Your predecessor Connie Conway was in this seat for a while. For those who might not know you as well, how would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be someone that empowers all members of the caucus to use their strengths, interests and passions to make our caucus as a whole stronger. As individuals, we all have a particular focus and backgrounds, and together we can use all of our strengths to be stronger as a team. I have also always been — whether it was local government, in my everyday life as a mom or now as Republican leader for the state Assembly — somebody who firmly believes that if we’re going to complain about something we better be willing to roll up our sleeves and be part of the solution.
Give me a quick overview of your personal legislative priorities for this year and the future.
There are four areas I will focus on in my leadership role: jobs, education, transparency and the new economy. We are still struggling in many regions of this state for people to find a good, stable job, and parents are very frustrated about the lack of access to high-performing schools that will set up their children for success in the workplace and life. In regard to transparency, on my first day of the legislative session I again introduced a bill that I’ve introduced every year I’ve served in the Assembly; it would require all bills to be in print for at least three days before they’re voted on. The public has the right to be able to voice their support or opposition on all measures, and as lawmakers, we need to know what is really in a bill in order to make an educated decision. As a caucus, we’re focused on learning more about the new economy. I believe that we need to promote efforts that encourage creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.