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Reader's view: Minnesota lost a champion in David Olson, 1957-2014

When I think back on my experiences and time with Minnesota Chamber President David Olson, I’m struck, more than anything else, by the fact there have been few, if any, human beings I’ve encountered in my nearly three decades in business I liked more. Time spent with him was productive, insightful, fun and rewarding — importantly, the time was never about David; it was about those around him, his team at the Chamber, his members, his family, and the issues needing attention to make Minnesota better (“Minn. Chamber of Commerce leader David Olson dies,” July 18).

He was a selfless champion for Minnesota who gave endlessly of himself and stepped up to lead when other, lesser leaders would not. He had rare talents for many things, but one that especially warranted my respect was his ability to identify talent and create exceptional teams where none existed before. He knew people are led and not managed and that quality people follow a leader with vision, with strength to face down adversity, and with a deep well of compassion and understanding for supporters and adversaries alike. Simply stated, David possessed a depth of character I hadn’t seen before.

We are deeply thankful to David’s wife, Carolyn, his sons Nick and Eric, and the rest of David’s family for the sacrifices made over many decades to share this wonderful man with the people, communities and businesses of Minnesota. We’re richly blessed with our memories, and we’re reminded to continue his legacy of seeing progress and opportunity around every challenge. Minnesota needs to find more champions like David Olson: people who understand the good that comes to communities and citizens when businesses succeed.

Thank you, my friend for the lessons in leadership given without knowing you were giving. Thank you for the time, the memories, and the world of wonderful people you shared with us.

David McMillan


The writer is senior vice president of external affairs for Allete, a past board chairman of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce (2009-10) and a past board member for the Minnesota Chamber (2004-10).