Jim Oliverson more than deserving of the title of Great Chief

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Jim Oliverson was named Great Chief by the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night, and as was to be expected in a man of true greatness, he was humble, self-effacing and somewhat shocked in accepting the award.

I’m happy that I was one of the many people who thought Jim was more than worthy of this tremendous honor and had an opportunity to recommend him to the Chamber’s selection committee. As I said in my nomination letter about Jim, “He is a happy warrior not just for the hospital but for his community and never settled for less than the best.”

I have had the pleasure of knowing Jim for many years, and have gotten to know him particularly well since I became managing editor in 2000.

As the vice president for community relations at Kalispell Regional Medical Center, Jim was a vital source of information for the Inter Lake for many stories, and I appreciated him for his honesty, diligence and thoroughness in helping our reporters do their jobs even on stories that the hospital might prefer left unreported.

But much more than that, I appreciated Jim for his droll insights about life that he learned from his Minnesota farmboy upbringing and which he shared with me in many visits to my office and later in email exchanges.

On the topic of public gullibility for government promises, for instance, Jim came up with this classic description: “Chilling how the merry-go-round or the cement mixer or the manure spreader … keep turning and spreading over and over and over and the public seems to have patch on one eye and one hand tied behind their back as they attempt to thumb a ride to that great entitlement pie in the sky.”

He also never let an opportunity for a compliment go unexercised. The first email I have from him was a 2008 note passing on a kind word from someone whom we had interviewed:

As Jim said, “From experience, I know writers and editors get a brick in the back of the head when someone is displeased and seldom get the pat on the back when it is right … sooo I wanted to share the compliment.”

A couple years ago, Jim sent me a note that summed up his approach to life. “As I age I become more and more appreciative of simplicity … in mission statements … church doctrine … personal goals… mine for example is, ‘I want to improve people’s lives.’

Thanks, Jim. You’ve improved mine, and countless others. Stay in touch!

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