Oregon’s chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA) nominated long-time chapter member Rick Olson as the chapter’s nominee for the National Top 10 Public Works Leader Award.

Although Olson was not one of the 10 people selected in this year’s highly competitive national judging, David Derrick, chair of the APWA National Top 10 Review Committee, recognized the significance of being nominated by Oregon APWA. “Your nomination reflects your commitment and service to the public works industry,” Derrick said.

“It was an honor to be considered,” Olson said.

Olson’s career in public works spans nearly 50 years. In his letter of support for Olson’s nomination Mike Bisset, Oregon Chapter President, wrote:

“He has an amazing track record of dedicated service to the profession as an industry leader, as a manufacturer and supplier of quality public works products, as an advocate for prudent local and national codes, standards and regulations, and as a national recognized expert serving on numerous public works related board, committees, and organizations. […] In addition to a lifelong commitment to his own professional development, Rick has helped numerous young engineers and professionals with their career development success. Additionally, Rick has a lengthy history as a leader in social and community service organizations.”

Olson is president and CEO of R.K.O. & Associates, a consulting company that specializes in innovations and improvements in concrete stormwater products, system I&I issues and building materials particularly for pre-cast concrete products and the roofing industry. He is president of Spec-Industries, a locally owned family business established in 1922 by Olson’s grandfather, Hugh Ford. He is also President and Technical Director of the Tile Roofing Industry Alliance.

Olson learned early on that the Pacific Northwest posed significant subsurface construction issues, and this led him to research and ultimately master public works specifications and infrastructure building codes. Through the Pacific Northwest Precast Concrete Association, Oregon APWA and Associated General Contractors, Olson helped establish committees to focus on this issue. Since 1981, Olson has been a voting member of the American Society for Testing and Materials for concrete pipe-related standards and concrete roofing tiles. In the early 1990s, Olson co-chaired the Oregon APWA Specification Committee with fellow member Paul Klope, and was instrumental in creating a standard set of specifications used by ODOT and APWA.

As Olson’s knowledge of concrete materials grew to include roofing tiles, he found a new set of challenges in the Southeast U.S. When Hurricane Andrew tore through Florida in 1992, its destructive force wreaked havoc on all building construction. As a nationally recognized expert on tile roofs and steep-slope roof assemblies, Olson recognized the need for updated specifications and building codes to improve the safety and performance of proper tile roof installations. Field investigations led Olson to help develop a full set of new building standards for the Florida and Southern Building Code Congress that has been the benchmark of all new wind-related code development. In 2004, the value of improved specifications and building codes was evident when most steep-slope roof assemblies with new code requirements withstood the pummeling of four hurricanes?Charlie, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne—all affecting more than 15 million residents of Florida.

Olson has been a member of the Oregon APWA since 1981. He served as president in 2008, has been on the Scholastic Foundation Board of Directors since 2008, and from 2012 to 2019 served as Foundation Treasurer .

Olson has a rich history of leadership in social and community service organizations including Rotary International (1986), Rotary Club of Eugene (President, 2011), District 5110 Assistant Governor, District 5110 Executive Assistant Governor, and District 5110 Governor, Junior Achievement of Lane County, Boy Scouts, Oregon Special Olympics, Active 30/30 International and 4H.

“Rick has exemplified excellence in public works leadership, and he is worthy of recognition as a Top 10 Public Works Leader of the Year,” Bisset concluded.