Veteran Aide Brings Bit of Wisconsin to Venn Strategies | Hill Climber
After working in virtually every capacity for Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., including stints as chief of staff, campaign strategist and policy analyst, Erik Olson has moved to Venn Strategies, a full-service public affairs and government relations firm where he hopes to develop the same deep relationships with his clients as those that helped define his years on Capitol Hill.
“I spent 14 years working for the same guy. That’s pretty rare,” Olson admitted.
His new position will incorporate the skills that he honed on Capitol Hill: networking, informing and advocating, and forming relationships with clients that go “miles deep” at a small boutique firm, as he explained.
“It’s about making sure that clients are well-informed and understand what is happening in D.C. We aren’t one of 85 consultants. We are the consultant,” Olson said.
Olson first pursued politics while he was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse studying political science, philosophy and public administration.
As he became involved with the College Democrats organization on his campus, he quickly landed his first political internship with then-Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis.
In 1999, he accepted his first position in Kind’s office, where he spent 20 hours per week as the campaign field director.
While organizing support for Kind in the Badger State, Olson was asked to help plan a rally in his hometown of La Crosse for the 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, then-Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, on the day before the election.
The event took place at Logan High School, where Kind graduated 16 years before Olson. Also assisting with the Gore/Lieberman ticket was Olson’s now-wife Jessica Smith. The two worked together for five days and then went their separate ways.
Following three years of campaign work in Wisconsin, Olson accepted a promotion as scheduler for Kind’s Washington office.
By 2005, Olson had transitioned into policy advising as the legislative assistant, eventually overseeing all natural resources legislation during Kind’s assignment on the Natural Resources Committee.
When Kind was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee in early 2007, Olson gained further opportunities to do tax and trade work.
When the chief of staff and legislative director both announced their resignations on the same day in 2009, Olson was immediately moved up to fill the chief of staff opening.
While settling in as top aide to Kind, Olson received an email one morning from eHarmony recommending he connect with Smith, whom he had worked with years earlier while organizing the Lieberman event.
He recognized the name and contacted her, stunned that they resided in the same city and even shared mutual friends. Within a year, the couple was engaged — they married in November 2012.
Having climbed the ladder in Kind’s office, Olson saw an opportunity open at Venn and accepted a position with the firm in September, right before the government shutdown.
Outside the office, Olson has made volunteer work a substantial part of his free time. He has served on the board of Horton’s Kids for six years and as the chairman for three. He has tutored children from the District’s Ward 8 through the past decade.
Horton’s Kids has allowed him to give back through the tutoring program that takes place inside the Rayburn House Office Building every week while connecting with other Hill staffers.
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