Olson receives top award from National Farmers UnionJamestown’s Odean Olson retired from his lifelong work in the same way most people want to go out — on top.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
Jamestown’s Odean Olson retired from his lifelong work in the same way most people want to go out — on top.
Olson, after more than 40 years of service with North Dakota Farmers Union, was honored with one of National Farmers Union’s highest national honors. He was given the Meritorious Service Award at the NFU’s 110th anniversary convention in La Vista, Neb.
“I’m honored and I’m glad we (NDFU) have been able to do a lot of good things for rural North Dakota and the whole state in general over the years,” said Olson, who spent 23 years as general manager of the NDFU Mutual Insurance companies.
The honor is the highest award the NFU Board of Directors can bestow upon an individual.
“Odean dedicated his life to Farmers Union Insurance, remaining true to the values of the company the entire way,” said Elwood “Woody” Barth, president of NDFU. “This award speaks highly to the work Odean did and the strengths he brought to the company.”
During his tenure as general manager, Olson said company revenue jumped from $7.9 million to $45.2 million and the company became the only A.M. Best Co. A-rated domestic insurance company in the entire state.
“One of the things I’m most proud of was being able to help convert this company into one that is financially secure as one of the biggest challenges when I got here was getting the company back to profitability,” Olson said. “We have managed to accomplish that and along the way have become a big presence in North Dakota.”
Olson is no stranger to accolades either, having twice been honored with NFU’s Regional Manager of the Year Award. He also earned the Distinguished Alumni Award from Mayville State University, where he earned a teaching degree in 1966.
“He’s got such a great personality, gets along with people so well and was always friendly,” NDFU Vice President Bob Kuylen said. “But he was always looking out for the organization too — he was always promoting it.”
World Farmers Organization President Robert Carlson agreed, attributing much of the company’s success to Olson’s forward-thinking.
“He had a tremendous attention to detail but he never lost sight of a bigger vision and a plan for the future,” he said. “North Dakota is one of the largest members of the NFU and Odean was instrumental to building that success.”
Carlson previously served as NDFU’s president.
According to Olson, NDFU has more than 100 agents throughout the state, making it one of the largest insurance agencies in all of North Dakota with premiums of approximately $153 million last year.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do it were it not for these great companies and board of directors that allowed the insurance operation to find a niche here in North Dakota,” Olson said.
He said his most rewarding memories include being able to help out the people of North Dakota through numerous weather events over the years.
“The way the mutual company was able to step up to the plate and help these families and businesses — that was probably the most gratifying thing we were able to do,” he said.
Olson, who began his career as a teacher and multi-sport coach before becoming an insurance agent, now looks forward to a quiet life in retirement.
“I’ll probably hang out with my grandkids. They’re very involved with sports and other activities so I’m going to enjoy being able to go and watch them,” he said.
Besides family, Olson said he’ll also have some more time to fine-tune his golf game.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.orgMore from around the web