FACES OF THE BOOM: Juggling jobs keeps Williston attorney busy amid the boom
WILLISTON, N.D. – For Williston attorney Taylor Olson, starting her law career in the Oil Patch has been a juggling act.
Olson, who returned to her hometown in 2011 to practice law, serves as Williston’s city prosecutor and is one of three attorneys who work with the Williston City Commission.
She recently completed a six-month stint as interim McKenzie County state’s attorney while the county searched for its first full-time state’s attorney, and is now serving in the same capacity for Divide County.
Olson also is the city attorney for the town of Arnegard and travels once a month to New Town, where she serves as the city’s municipal judge. In addition, she has a civil practice and helps clients resolve oil and gas issues and other matters.
“I’ve been in practice for 2½ years and my caseload and, I think, the type of experience and the amount of experience that I’ve gotten is second to none,” said Olson, 31.
Olson, a University of North Dakota School of Law graduate, recently became one of the owners of the Williston law firm Furuseth, Kalil, Olson & Evert, along with her husband, Jordon Evert.
As Williston’s municipal prosecutor, Olson handles misdemeanors, drunk driving cases and other traffic incidents, all of which have increased as the oil boom has prompted rapid population growth.
“The longer I’ve been here, the longer court goes,” she said.
Olson, who had an internship with the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office, said she always wanted to be a prosecutor when she was a law student.
But she said she had no idea what she was stepping into when she agreed to be interim McKenzie County state’s attorney, a position the county decided to make full time due to the increase in workload.
“McKenzie County is overwhelmingly busy,” Olson said.
While there, Olson handled cases such as manslaughter charges that stemmed from highway fatalities in addition to working with the county on civil matters. Olson turned some major drug cases over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and worked in conjunction with federal authorities.
“My work in McKenzie County led me to a little bit more exposure to the bigger picture,” Olson said.
While Olson has seen firsthand the increase in crime in northwest North Dakota, she considers Williston a safe community.
“For the most part, there aren’t random acts of violence happening here,” Olson said. “A lot of the things that happen here happen at a bar at 1 o’clock in the morning or happen between drug dealers.”
Divide County, another area affected by the Bakken boom, also decided to make its state’s attorney position full time. Olson began serving in an interim role in January while the county conducts a search.
Olson, attorney Pete Furuseth and her husband share responsibilities of working for the city of Williston, also a demanding job as the city deals with the challenges that come with rapid growth.
One of the new ordinances Olson helped develop was a much-debated ban on living in a camper in Williston city limits outside of an RV park.
Olson said she’s seen the growth bring a lot of changes to Williston – both good and bad. But she and her husband, now expecting their first baby, like the community and plan to stay.
“It’s been very busy, but I think it’s been a great experience for us being out here,” Olson said.
Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 580-6890.