Scotty Olson Values Learning How to Communicate With the Younger Generation

The Legends of the Geezers is an annual tree-climbing competition held in January in Florida for those still agile over the age of 40, and it just celebrated its 21st birthday. Next January, three climbers who were 18 when they started helping out with the competition now, 21 years later, will be competing.

Scotty Olson at TCI EXPO ’23 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Pete Senor, Clogger, New Zealand.
Scotty Olson at TCI EXPO ’23 in St. Louis, Missouri. Photo by Pete Senor, Clogger, New Zealand. All photos courtesy of Scotty Olson.

“So it’s come full circle,” says Scotty David Olson, crew leader in Pineville, North Carolina, for SavATree, an accredited, 39-year TCIA member company headquartered in Bedford Hills, New York.

Olson is one of the founders of Geezers, and this year was winner of its Spirit of Competition Award for the competitor who gives the most. Olson, who has had and maintained his Certified Treecare Safety Professional (CTSP) credential for 12 years, says what he has learned in CTSP training helps him give back.

“For me, being older is learning new ways to talk to the younger generation and to be able to interact with them, instead of them just having to listen to the old guy,” he says.

Scotty Olson training on rope skills with a crew of firefighters. Photo by David Graham.
Scotty Olson training on rope skills with a crew of firefighters. Photo by David Graham.

TCIA’s CTSP program provides tree care workers with a well-rounded education in safety concepts, plus the tools needed to communicate effectively on the job site for all ages.

When Olson was starting out in the tree care industry 41 years ago, such formal training did not exist. One compared experience in terms of how many years you had been climbing, he says, not how many certificates you had. That has changed.

In addition to having his CTSP credential, Olson is a TCIA Qualified Crew Leader and an ISA Certified Arborist and Certified Tree Climber, has his TCIA Crane Operations Specialist credential and is a National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO) certified crane operator. He also is president of the Charlotte Arborists’ Association.

“I tell my trainees, you are coming here to learn. Anyone can have the piece of paper, but you’ve got to have the heart,” he says.

“We are in a hazardous profession, not a dangerous profession. It’s our job to mitigate those hazards so we are not in a dangerous profession. We have the luxury of saying ‘no’ and walking away to work another day,” says Olson.

One thing that means is not letting the client dictate what you have to do. If the client waited so long that the tree is dead and too dangerous to climb, that’s not the arborist’s problem, according to Olson.

While he may be a Geezer, Olson is not stuck on doing things the old way. But he says he did prefer in-person CTSP workshops over the online training.

“I highly suggest getting rid of online; there’s not enough interaction for what we are looking for. You’re not getting the facial reactions, the speaking reactions – cameras are off, microphones are off.* The pre-conference workshop for new CTSPs in November was fabulous,” he says of the in-person training held in conjunction with TCI EXPO ’23 in St. Louis, Missouri.

Scotty Olson ready to work.
Scotty Olson ready to work.

“I went to the pre-conference class because I like to stay up to date on any changes,” Olson says.

And he did have an “aha” moment while attending that session regarding something he could bring back to his company.

“It was coming up with figures for management on why they should spend money on training,” he says.

The instructor demonstrated the equation of the dollar amount spent per hour on an employee for training, and the dollar amount saved for the company in such areas as loss of work time and morale, “how to actually bring it to the bean counters,” says Olson. “The tree people understand that.”

For more information on the CTSP credential and upcoming workshops, go to Or, in the digital magazine version of this issue, click here.

Tamsin Venn is founding publisher of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine and author of the book “Sea Kayaking Along the New England Coast,” and has been a contributing writer to TCI Magazine since 2011. She lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

* “Scotty is stating his opinion, and he’s done both virtual and in-person workshops, but we receive good ratings for our virtual workshops, which help people accommodate their schedules and budgets,” says Irina Kochurov, TCIA’s director, credentialing programs.

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