Editorial: A hero on the city's Park Board

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD
  • Updated: October 19, 2012 - 8:45 PM

Jon Olson put himself at risk in protecting an employee.

Jon Olson

Photo: Courtesy, Minneapolis Park Board

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On his official Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board bio page, Jon Olson states that it's an honor to represent the North Side of Minneapolis and serve as the Park Board member for the Second District.

Olson deserves to know that it's an honor for the entire metro area to have someone with such personal courage serving in local office. His heroic defense of a woman harassed at a local bar recently is a reminder in this age of throw-the-bums-out cynicism that the ranks of elected officials are still filled overwhelmingly by dedicated citizens.

Olson's act of bravery came at high cost. The deep cuts he suffered to his face and hand illustrate the dangers Good Samaritans can face when stepping in to protect someone else. The easiest, safest thing to do is to walk away.

Conscientious citizens like Olson also realize that inaction can cost a life and know they have a duty to intercede. On Sept. 29, Olson took that responsible step, at great personal risk, when he left the T-Shoppe Bar in Minneapolis and saw one of his employees punched by a man who had been harassing her inside the bar. (Olson owns a Dairy Queen franchise.)

The three-term park commissioner, who had previously told the man to leave the employee alone, walked over and bravely placed himself between the two, according to authorities. The intoxicated assailant then produced a box cutter and slashed Olson repeatedly in the face and hands before fleeing the scene.

Even the dry jargon of the criminal complaint, which charges the assailant with first-degree assault, can't mask the severity of Olson's injuries.

"Officer observed the victim had multiple slash wounds to his face. One ran from the bridge of his nose, down the side of his nose, down his cheek, and ended on the jawline. Another wound split his upper and lower lips. Another was present on the victim's forehead. These injuries each required dozens of stitches. The victim was advised by medical personnel that these facial wounds would all leave sizeable, permanent scars and that plastic surgery would be required to minimize the disfigurement.''

Slash wounds to Olson's hand also damaged tendons. "The prognosis for a full recovery is uncertain,'' according to the complaint.

Olson didn't respond to an editorial writer's request for an interview. He's kept a low profile since the assault but did tell Star Tribune reporter Nicole Norfleet this week that he's glad to be alive and relieved that his employee didn't sustain further injuries.

Olson's Park Board colleagues said they weren't surprised by his heroism. Board President John Erwin said Olson has long had a reputation as a stand-up guy, someone unafraid to speak out or act to help someone in need. Erwin also noted that Olson came to a recent meeting in pain and in bandages so he could cast a key vote on refurbishing a neighborhood pool for kids in south Minneapolis.

Olson's bravery and dedication represent public leadership at its best. We wish him a speedy recovery.

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