LEMOORE — Going from the private sector to a city government job was a learning curve for Nathan Olson, and it will continue to be as he makes the change from public works director to interim city manager for the city of Lemoore, but he’s definitely up for the challenge.
“I’m vested here, I have kids going to school here — we’re going to be here for a long time,” Olson said. “I want to be a part of continuing to make this city a great place to be.”
Olson has been the public works director since October 2015, and he is ready to hit the ground running as interim city manager and start bringing some economic development into the city.
Olson grew up in Wisconsin, but came to Lemoore in 1988 when he was stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore as an aviation hydraulics mechanic. He served until 1993, when he and his wife, Heather, who grew up in Lemoore, decided to stay and call Lemoore home.
Olson and his wife have four children, a boy who has already graduated from Lemoore High School, a boy currently at LHS and two younger daughters.
Olson said before the publics work position, he was in the food manufacturing industry, working at various plants in different operations management or engineering management roles. He has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Phoenix.
He was initially unsure of whether to pursue the interim city manager position, but after talking with his family and really considering the opportunity, he decided he was interested and threw his name in the hat. The main reason he decided to go for it was the executive team at the city, all of whom are fairly new.
The relatively new finance director, parks and recreation director, assistant to the city manager and Olson are a set of new, younger employees who are ready to bring new ideas to the table. Olson said they all get along and hear each other out, even when they don’t agree.
“To lead a team that has the right mindset and the right attitude, it’s just a privilege,” Olson said. “It’s not something you get to do all the time.”
Lemoore Mayor Ray Madrigal said when the city realized they needed to find an interim city manager, they knew they wanted to keep the position in-house for now and put out a call to all city employees, particularly leadership staff like department directors.
Madrigal said what won Olson the position was the good ideas he relayed to council during his interview, particularly his drive to boost economic development, an issue Madrigal said the city is struggling with.
Due to his knowledge and experience in the private sector, Madrigal said Olson has been beneficial to the city when dealing with private companies and contractors. It also helps that Olson has called Lemoore home for many years and is committed to the community.
“When someone is invested in the community, you’re going to get the best out of that person,” Madrigal said, adding Olson is well-liked by city staff and his peers.
Madrigal gave a lot of credit to Lemoore Police Chief Darrell Smith, who “stepped-up to the plate” to take the position of acting city manager when issues arose with previous city manager Andi Welsh, and believes Olson will be able to continue what Smith started.
Both Madrigal and Smith said the last few months have been a tough time for the city, but felt stability was achieved under Smith’s five-month tenure. Smith said he was proud of what he was able to accomplish in the small amount of time he was acting city manager, all with the effort of a lot of hard-working city department directors and staff.
Smith said he didn’t really have a say in the hiring process, but said he knows City Council had a difficult decision to make between qualified candidates, and he thinks they made a great choice with Olson. Now, Smith will put all his focus into running the police department and said he looks forward to working from here on out with Olson to improve the city.
“Nathan is a very good choice for where we are as a city right now,” Smith said. “He’s done a phenomenal job.”
Olson said Smith is well-respected throughout the community and calls his leadership “second-to-none.” He said having Smith makes the transition much easier and he hopes he can continue the precedent Smith started.
Olson said he’s proud of a lot of things he’s been able to accomplish as public works director, particularly getting the city’s water issues under control. The city has had trouble with high levels of trihalomethanes since 2014, but is in the final stages of testing to have the issues resolved.
As interim city manager, Olson said he would like to see development on the west side of town near West Hills College Lemoore. He said he would like to get more businesses and more retail in the city, and hopefully growth in other areas of the city will come after.
“I think we’re a jewel in the middle of the Valley and we need to portray that better to get people to come to our town,” Olson said.