Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Olson, who died Wednesday night after suffering a stroke a few days ago, set a gold standard for public officials who truly care about serving the public.
Foremost, the 68-year-old Olson, who took office in 1981 and was just re-elected last fall, was a true public servant. He knew who his bosses were. He was always thinking of ways to make taxpayers' lives easier with one-stop offices, and he was a leader among Florida tax collectors in adding driver's licenses to the office's vast responsibilities.
Olson also quickly utilized the Internet as an extension of his offices, an innovative move that makes it more convenient for working people, especially, to pay fees and taxes.
A banker by trade, Olson brought many banking techniques to the Tax Collector's Office, and it showed - every year. Over his three decades as tax collector, Olson returned $70 million to county coffers. He could have kept the money in his budget but knew the funds were best returned to county coffers for more important uses.
Olson, a former Pasco County commissioner, also was a master politician. For years he has been the only Democrat to hold a major office in Pasco, and other Democratic candidates routinely sought his counsel.
That became a campaign issue several years ago when it was disclosed that Olson had conducted some of this political mentoring in his tax offices. We scolded him for that while endorsing his re-election bid. Olson's reaction was refreshing: He called us that day, acknowledged he had been wrong and said it wouldn't happen again.
We can only hope that whoever succeeds him works as hard on behalf of the public as Olson did and is as honest.
Pasco has lost a giant.