■ Taj Shorter / Reporter
As the Nov. 6 election day approaches, it is important to be made aware of which local candidates will potentially be holding a seat on city council. One candidate who has already made an impression in the local community is known for her commitment and hard work attacking the homeless problem in Hemet. Stacie Olson, a Hemet resident off and on for over 30 years, will be running for District 2 against incumbent Russ Brown.
Originally from Long Beach, she moved to the Hemet area in 1987 when her oldest son was just 6 months old. She has raised two older children in Hemet. Her son went to Baptist Christian, now known as Cornerstone Christian Preschool. As a single parent of four children, two grown-up and two still at home, along with four grandchildren, Olson does it all. While interviewed she called herself a “Glam-ma!” Despite juggling the commitment of motherhood, Olson has also committed herself to her local community through her work and her spare time.
The District 2 candidate has worked in property management for 30 years and has held a real estate license for nine. She has worked mainly in low-income communities or HUD tax-credit properties. While describing her work, she claims she has dealt with “the working family unit” firsthand. As she spoke with the Chronicle about her campaign, she revealed how her work experiences would make her an effective and understanding councilmember.
Olson gave examples of working in tax-credit properties where the residents did not always pay rent on time and how she tried to work with those who needed – and wanted – help. Olson first would begin helping by building a sense of community, which would mean working with the property aesthetically and working with the children who lived there. She says she would start with the kids, motivating them to get involved with helping in the community. She would reward kids who helped pick up their trash and follow community rules and noticed a shift in the resident’s relationship with the complex they lived in.
“[It’s important to] bring about a sense of community. When people feel that you can care about them, that they’re worth something…They start to rally for the idea and when they rally for that they start to believe in that sense of community. You start to build a camaraderie.”
When asked how she would, if elected, make use of her seat on city council she explained she would focus on building a better relationship between city government and the residents of Hemet.
“You have to get involved with people and you have to build relationships. You can’t do all of that behind a desk,” said Olson.
Her experience working in real estate with low-income communities mirrors her outreach in Hemet, particularly her participation in the Homeless Outreach Team or “HOT” Team. “People treat the city poorly, because they don’t feel important.”
Olson co-founded the HOT Team with Mayor Pro-Tem Karlee Meyer, which was recently endorsed by the City of Hemet. She is also the founder of Project Hope, a homeless outreach program that is not in the business of hand-outs. Her outlook is that the main way to solve the homeless issue in Hemet is to help those who want to be helped. She and Meyer both have campaigned against panhandlers, encouraging citizens to donate to homeless organizations that can help a broader spectrum of the homeless population instead of giving money to street beggars.
Within her homeless outreach programs, she has conducted a lot of surveys in the community and says the common denominators are the idea that “they don’t care about us, so why should we care about them?” “They” being city council and “us” being the local residents. She further explained that there is a lack of connection between city council and the public.
Olson says a lot of the clients she worked with to rehabilitate housing now live, work, and shop in town and are reinvesting in the city. She says instead of running them out of town, her outreach focuses on helping the individual get back on their feet. The outcome: they pay taxes, buy groceries, and support businesses – all benefitting the city as a whole.
The Chronicle asked Olson how she differs from other candidates and how she would live up to her role as a city council member. “I am 100 percent available,” says Olson who describes her personality as people-oriented. She maintains that all the little things add up leading to big changes.
One small thing she would do differently as councilmember is her approach during council meetings. She says that councilmembers entering from the back instead of walking into meetings with the rest of the public mirrors a courtroom setting where the judge enters from behind closed doors. Olson says, “We work for the people, we are the employees of the people of Hemet…we are not better than them [because] we are working for them.” Her belief is to shake hands, welcome people, and make it an environment where people feel that they matter.
This District 2 candidate has been endorsed by the Hemet Firefighters Association. All candidates, including Linda Krupa and Russ Brown, were interviewed for this honor but Olson was the only one who was endorsed.
Stacie Olson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.