This is a love letter to Utah's Junction City from her newest resident.
'Twas not always thus. Growing up in rural Cache Valley, I remember as a young man thinking that Ogden was the armpit of Utah. When Sky View played Ogden High in football or basketball, there was invariably some sort of post-game fight involved - obviously the fault of those low-life Ogden kids.
Newly married and struggling to support a family and go to school, my employer in Logan closed up shop and offered me a job in Weber County. I was not thrilled. Times being tough back then, I took the job, with the understanding that if we stayed as far from Ogden as possible (we ended up in Plain City) living in Weber County might be endurable.
I still recall an incident that first year here when an engineer from Iowa visited us. He came in Monday morning and said, "You won't believe this, but driving to my hotel last night up 25th Street, I could have sworn I saw a hooker." Indeed you did.
How things have changed in 30 years. Thanks to the tireless efforts of civic and business leaders and her hard-working citizens, Ogden is a different place. The street where my friend observed ladies of the night is now a place where families spend summer weekends together.
The classic old homes in her center are being restored (including the modest but comfortable two-story Victorian built by one of Lorin Farr's sons that we now inhabit). She has become one of Utah's most vibrant manufacturing hubs and a nationally recognized center for outdoor recreation.
It's not just Ogden that has changed. I have changed too. As I've grown older, I have learned to value diversity. I understand that I have things to learn from people who are different than me. My wife and I are raising a seven-year-old grandson, and we want him to get to know people who look and think differently than he does. Where else in the Top of Utah besides Ogden can you gain that kind of experience?
As Ogden's newest resident, it may seem presumptuous of me to offer advice. But hey, I'm now an Ogden taxpayer, so what the heck, here goes.
I hope Ogden's leaders will continue to concentrate on improving the quality of life for all her citizens. We're a town of working families; Ogden would lose her character if she became a city concerned only for the affluent.
We need to always remember that being business-friendly is not an end in itself; it is one tool of many for the real goal of improving the quality of life for people.
Given that our grandson will be attending Ogden city schools, we are obviously concerned about education. My wife and I plan on being very involved in Ogden's public schools; we want to help improve the quality of education for our grandson and his classmates.
There has been a lot of talk recently about running schools like a business. Ogden school administrators need to realize that the product of that business is a teacher in the classroom.
The common thread in model education nations like Finland and Singapore is they respect teaching more than any other profession.
News stories from the last few years, combined with my own discussions with Ogden city teachers, lead me to the conclusion that Ogden teachers ain't feelin' the love. Any business owner will tell you that if a perceived hostile environment is created in the workplace, the first employees out the door will be the ones with the most impressive resumes. Ogden's kids - our city's most precious resource -- simply can't afford a mass exodus of our best teachers.
Don't get me wrong; I understand and empathize with school administrators who have to run our public schools under the tragically stingy funding levels provided by the Legislature. That fact makes those non-monetary things like respect all the more important.
We love Plain City and our many friends there, and have great memories over thirty years. But we have chosen to spend the last stage of our lives in Ogden. I have grown to love city life in a way only a rural boy raised on a farm can understand.
My wife and I look forward to working with Ogden's civic and education leaders to build on what Junction City already is: the most vibrant, diverse, coolest place to live in Utah!
Olsen, an Ogden resident, is the vice chairman of the LDS Democratic Caucus.