George Olsen was born into a ranching family in White Sulphur Springs, MT. His family owned a dairy farm there. Not long after George was born, his family moved to Deer Lodge where his father opened a hardware store. To say George is tough as nails is an understatement, his family moved to Joplin to farm for eight years when he, his brother and sisters were children. They had to move back to Deer Lodge during the winter months because the home wasn’t suitable for the freezing winter weather, with no indoor plumbing. Growing up in a farming family served George well throughout his life and career. He has an amazing work ethic, can fix darn near anything and was able to build trust with his ag clients because he knows firsthand what the highs and lows farming and ranching can bring.
George finished high school in Deer Lodge and went on to the University of Montana in Missoula. He had a cousin that went into accounting and George decided “if he can do it, so can I”. During his high school years, he signed up for bookkeeping and typing classes instead of physics and calculus, which gave him an insight into the profession and made his college courses easier for him to dive into. Following graduation, he interviewed with Galusha, Higgins and Galusha (GHG) in Helena in 1971. At the time, he didn’t think he’d stay long. After 41 years with the firm, in 2012, he retired from the same office.
During his tenure at GHG, George’s niches included financial institutions and ag clients as well as small businesses and individuals. George fondly recalls that getting to know people through these client engagements and learning about their businesses and families were his favorite parts of being a trusted adviser. To this day, George treasures these friendships the most when he looks back on his career. In addition, George had some amazing times with his colleagues and peers from other firms around Helena and carries with him fond memories participating on the GAHGZ softball team and even having his elbow broken during an inter-firm basketball game. George thoroughly enjoyed the comradery amongst competing firms he interfaced with and the friendships he made along the way.
Although he retired in 2012, George is still as busy as ever. In fact, George is still deeply involved with the MSCPAs Legislative Committee and the State and Federal Tax Committee and has been the MSCPA’s voice at the Legislature for years. In addition, he serves as the board president for the Montana Land Reliance (and has been involved with the Board since 1979), sits on the board of the Ruby Habitat Foundation, and has been serving for the past six years on the Land Trust Alliance Board. Additionally, George has sat on the MHESAC board since 2011.
When George isn’t at the Legislature for the Society or one of the boards he sits on, he is likely with his wife, Ellen, and his grandchildren. George is very proud of his children, Kara, who lives in Bozeman, and Brian, who lives in Helena and works at the Department of Revenue. When talking about the future and where he sees himself in full retirement, George states, “we’ll stay close to Helena to be near our grandchildren”.
The best advice George offers to younger CPAs or those just starting the profession, is to encourage them to look beyond just making money and to focus on the relationships they’ll build and the knowledge they’ll gain from the profession. In addition, George encourages younger members of the profession to become active members on committees and boards with the MSCPA and to not assume some else is going to take on such leadership roles. You can make a difference by working with the Society through its strength and credibility. “It’s been a blast”, as he recalled listening and learning from other CPAs, that George now calls friends. The DC trips for council, “those were an adventure”, as he shook his head with a smile. Knowing who attends those trips (Gordy Thompson, Ryan Screnar, Jim Galipeau, you know the crew!), we can only imagine the fun times they’ve had!
The Society couldn’t be prouder and more pleased to honor George Olsen with the George D. Anderson Distinguished Service Award. We cannot thank you enough for your time, service and dedication to the profession, George.