Washington enjoyed unprecedented industrial growth in the 24 years that Dick Oldenburg served the city as its community economic development director.
His passing last week at age 77 came as a shock to his many friends who didn’t know he was seriously ill. His peaceful and quiet passing reflected his unassuming lifestyle.
Dick possessed an inner strength that resulted in his determined approach to economic development and his remarkable success in dealing with industrial prospects and with state and regional officials in obtaining grants. It also served him well in dealing with landowners in obtaining sites for industries.
His style was professional in every respect, especially in working with the 353 Redevelopment Corp. and the Civic Industrial Corp. and with his co-workers in city hall.
Dick received excellent cooperation with city officials, who respected his ability to put together a detailed industrial package that needed their approval.
He had a statewide reputation for his ability to work with industrial prospects, who learned he could be trusted with what was proposed.
Dick would remark that the people of the community and the positive bent of city officials “sold” the community to prospects. That and the quality of the workforce were the difference-makers in numerous deals, he said.
Dick was not one to take credit for the success in industrial development that Washington enjoys. He would pass the credit to the volunteer spirit and cooperation of city government.
During his tenure, his success was marked by the approximately 30 industries that moved to or expanded in Washington’s industrial parks and the more than 2,000 jobs created. The projects represented an investment of more than $250 million, plus the payrolls that industrial development produced.
A devoted family man, survivors include his wife Cathie, three sons and 13 grandchildren.
Dick left his mark on our community. The example he set in his life is lasting.