Bill Olsen has been involved in Ocean View politics for nearly 20 years, having moved to the area in 1995.
“When we first moved here, I went to a meeting and met Bob Orem, who was the president of the council at the time,” recalled Olsen. “He kept on seeing me and said, ‘You know, you could be on the Planning & Zoning Commission.’ Then he said the Board of Election, the Board of Adjustment.”
Olsen, who currently chairs the town’s Board of Adjustment, recently decided to run for town council, to represent the residents in District 1.
“Years back, a lot of people asked me to keep on running,” he said. “This year, I tried to get together people to run. No one wanted to, and people said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ And I said, ‘OK, I guess I have to.’ You do like to have other people to run, just so people can decide what they want.”
Olsen is a retired electrical engineer who worked for the U.S. Army at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey for 34 years.
“Drafted into the Army, and after basic they sent me to Fort Monmouth,” he said. That was just after he graduated from the University of Pittsburg. “They had a special program for scientist and engineers. After my two years up there, they said they wanted me to stay in the research laboratories, so was given a civilian position.”
Olsen and his wife, Mary Anne, a pharmacist, were planning to retire to southern Virginia, until one of their daughters suggested they look into southern Delaware instead.
“One of them happened to go to Dewey Beach, and on their way, they made a wrong turn and they came to Bethany Beach. She told us, ‘You ought to think about coming down here,’” he said. “We spent four seasons touring the area, so we had a feel what it was like in the summer, spring, fall and winter.
“Where we lived up in New Jersey, we were about three miles inland from the ocean,” he added. “It was very similar to Ocean View. We had the bays on one side and the ocean on the other side. We picked Ocean View because they had a police department. We saw that Bethany Beach in the wintertime more or less closes. We liked Ocean View a little better, and we’re farther from the ocean but we can go down whenever we want to.”
When he first started going to town council meetings, Olsen said he didn’t plan on running for office but just to offer some ideas.
“I started going to meetings to see how things were. I would give my 2 cents’ worth. You try to help the town in any way, and not to criticize. If it’s not constructive, you might as well keep quiet.”
As Coastal Point’s press deadline on Wednesday, no one else had filed to run for the District 1 seat, which is currently held by Michele Steffens.
Olsen said he gets along well with the council members and doesn’t plan on changing anything.
“I have no plans to change anything. I think the town is going on a good course the way it is. I have no ax to grind or anything like that,” he said. “The town has changed, and there’s no sense in trying to hold it back. You can see the new developments. It’s turning into a place for retirees.”
Of the town’s ongoing sidewalk project, Olsen said he supports part of the project but is worried about how it may affect the budget in future years.
“For years, I’ve been pushing that we need sidewalks from the canal down Central down to 26. I thought that was the prime target,” he noted. “The other ones, I’m not that fond of. However, the lower part of Woodland — there was always a problem with the bend there being dangerous, so I can understand that,” he said. “If you look at the budget, that’s where we’re going to run into problems in the out years. We’re still spending more money than we’re bringing in.”
He added that he knows there has been some contention between residents and the council in the past, but he said he would welcome ideas brought before the council in a non-confrontational way, even if they were in opposition to his own views.
“No matter what you do, half the town is for and half the town is against, but constructive criticism or ideas are good.”
Olsen said he hopes other townspeople will take an interest in Ocean View and help make it a better place.
“Nobody attends the meetings, let alone runs for council. I’ve tried to get other people involved,” he said. “I hope other people will participate. It’s their town. You can see that we’re not geniuses that know how exactly to run things, but you see that all the time. It helps when you do have an audience, because they can offer suggestions. There are a lot of good people who could run.”