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Posted on: January 4, 2023

‘It’s Been A Good Ride’

Pete Olsen portrait

Outgoing County Commissioner Pete Olsen is humbled to have had the opportunity to serve the community over the past 12 years, eight of those as commission chair, saying it has been “a good ride,” but emphasizing that he has done nothing by himself. At his final commissioners’ meeting on December 21, he praised county employees as hard working and dedicated public servants. “They always answer the call and take time to work for the community.”

Olsen cites no two better examples of this than the 2017 flood mitigation efforts and the COVID response of the last three years. “During the Big Dig of 2017, there were no squabbles through all the moving parts and agencies involved to make sure our community wasn’t flooded.” Numerous federal, state, county and city agencies and officials, shoulder-to-shoulder alongside farmers and private citizens, worked to create the Big Dig, a trench 17-miles long through the desert to direct flood water around the City of Fallon and populated areas of the county.

He credits the county’s COVID response efforts, again with numerous local officials and agencies pulling together in the unknown atmosphere, to provide the best services available to keep the community safe and healthy. Churchill County efforts were far ahead of most in the state to the point of being able to offer testing and vaccines in adjacent rural counties.

Local accomplishments

Olsen said several accomplishments by Churchill County over the last dozen years make this place better for its citizens:

  • The local effort to clear the Carson River and build the weir in early 2017, followed by the efforts of the Big Dig that spring, combined to offer a permanent solution to the threat of the Carson River flooding. As a result, federal flood maps are being reworked to remove the need for expensive flood insurance for many residents and businesses in the City of Fallon and Churchill County.
  • Opening of the William N. Pennington Life Center to greatly enhance services offered to the local senior population and providing a place for generations to gather.
  • New law enforcement center and jail opened in 2017 with a better, safer facility for both staff and the incarcerated along with more capacity to accommodate the growing community. The new facility is ADA compliant and offers better visibility and security measures for all who use it.
  • Thanks to the work of CC Communications, there is fiberoptic cable available to 90% of the community, something no other rural county in the country can boast. 
  • The county’s response to the COVID pandemic which was difficult because of all the unknowns, yet county and city staff went with their “gut feeling” to provide testing and vaccine opportunities to protect the community, especially the older population, while staying away from more severe actions (like policing public gatherings).
  • The creation of the Rafter 3C Arena to provide a dual-purpose facility for emergency operations and economic development. As this facility draws events here, new development in the form of hotels and restaurants are expected to follow.
  • Newly created Central Nevada Health District to consolidate the public health offerings in several rural counties and the City of Fallon at the local level thereby offering better health services.
  • County worked with our federal Congressional delegation for the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act to provide for enhanced training opportunities for NAS Fallon while ensuring public access to much of the federal lands in the county. As part of that legislation, Churchill County becomes eligible for recreational funding as part of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.

Looking ahead

Olsen is excited about the upcoming new District Courthouse that is being designed and constructed over the coming years. He said that there is a huge need for a new courthouse for a variety of reasons. 

“The current courthouse has small jury boxes, and it is difficult to hear people in the courtroom itself due to its poor design,” he said. The waiting area is so tight that victims and perpetrators and their families are just a few feet apart as they wait to go into the courtroom. 

Add new demands on the judicial system over the last several decades, and the fact that it is not ADA compliant, and the need for a new facility is clear, Olsen said.  

The new courthouse will centralize security for both the District Court and Justice Court, reducing costs.

Olsen said he also is looking forward to seeing the new fire trucks when they arrive, hopefully later this year. These new trucks replace nearly 30-year-old vehicles that have exceeded their life span and have been expertly maintained and repaired by the volunteer fire department to keep them serving this community.  

What’s next

Olsen and his family are spending time together over the holidays and he and his wife Tami look forward to spending time with their many grandchildren in the new year. A trip to Europe is also on the books for 2023 and he will keep farming, as one of several local milk-producing dairies in the county.

A community farewell reception for Olsen and fellow outgoing Commissioner Greg Koenig will be held Wednesday, January 11 at 5:30 p.m. at the Rafter 3C Arena. All are invited to attend.

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