He paved the way for city’s future

Gilroy’s Economic Development Director Bill Lindsteadt, recently

Gilroy’s hard-charging economic development director, Bill
Lindsteadt, dies at 66 after a month-long battle
Gilroy – Bill Lindsteadt, the man who brought big personality and big development to Gilroy, helping to steer the city clear of economic malaise over the last decade, died Thursday morning after spending nearly a month in the critical care unit of Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

“It saddens me greatly,” said Councilman Bob Dillon, who ran for City Council in part at the urgings of Lindsteadt. “Bill was not only the engine for economic development, he was a funny guy and a good raconteur. He could make anybody laugh. He always thought larger than life and was a larger-than-life guy.”

Doctors pronounced Lindsteadt, 66, dead at 11:28 am, according to an e-mail to friends and colleagues sent by the Chamber of Commerce. His wife and family were at his side. He was scheduled to receive special recognition during a Feb. 5 dinner by the Chamber of Commerce, which named him Man of the Year for 2004.

Lindsteadt was initially taken to Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy on Dec. 16 for an undisclosed health emergency. Following his hospitalization, he suffered a series of related medical complications, including a heart attack. He was relocated to the Salinas hospital Dec. 20 to receive specialized treatment. His death resulted from a series of complications related to kidney failure, according to those close to the family.

Ron Koch, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, said Lindsteadt used a ventilator in his last few days but still managed to communicate.

“The nurses and caretakers loved him,” Koch said. “He was a warm and outgoing kind of fellow. That personality came through even in intensive care.”

Lindsteadt, described by one person as a “softie,” was no pushover when it came to business.

An aggressive dealmaker with a friendly smile, Lindsteadt at times butted heads with city staff and politicians due to his pro-business zeal. As Gilroy’s first Economic Development Corporation Director, he was widely credited as the force behind business-friendly policies that energized the city at a time when other municipalities went into economic tailspin.

“When we decided to form the EDC, the city budget was scheduled to go into the red in about the next seven or eight years,” recalled former Mayor Mike Gilroy, who was on the council when Lindsteadt was hired in 1996. “Revenues were just declining a lot because of the takeaways by the state. We put together a plan and decided we needed to hire someone to implement it.”

The former mayor was charged with checking into Lindsteadt’s work history.

“The only bad comment I got – and it wasn’t really bad – was ‘You better have him steered in the right direction before you let him go because he’s a very aggressive seller and a hard charger,’ ” he recalled.

He said Lindsteadt, who worked both as a real estate broker and an economic development official, had “a unique blend of talents.”

“He got the city to change the way it did business,” Gilroy said. “He got economic incentives in place, not all of which were embraced by the city staff. But we got them in place and they worked.”

Since Lindsteadt took charge of the EDC in 1996, he shepherded into the city dozens of big box stores and many smaller retailers. Under his stewardship, the city has added more than 2 million square feet of retail space and taxable sales have doubled to more than $1.1 billion.

“The new businesses, the new jobs, the new capital investment in the city – while many communities throughout California were suffering, Gilroy continued to have enough in the reserves that we didn’t experience the cutbacks that other cities experienced,” said Susan Valenta, president of the Chamber of Commerce. The chamber and EDC share office space on Monterey Street.

Posters and other memorabilia in Lindsteadt’s office spoke to his life-long passion for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers.

He also loved to sing, as many who attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival in the last seven years may recall.

“He was the biggest guy and he was the bass,” said Koch, who performed with Garlic City Harmony, the barbershop quartet Lindsteadt formed after joining First Good Shepherd Church.

Lindsteadt’s interests helped him bond with others in the community, including former Mayor Gilroy. The two did not always agree on policy, but struck up a lasting friendship.

“He was just a real nice guy,” Gilroy said. “Very much a gentleman.”

The two often golfed together and had other things in common from their youth, such as skydiving.

Gilroy, who now lives in Florida, would drop in on Lindsteadt at the EDC whenever he returned to California.

“I’d give him a hard time about things that may not have gone right – and he’d tell me to ‘stick it in my ear,’ ” Gilroy recalled with humor.

Lindsteadt, who planned to travel cross country with his wife after retiring from the EDC at the end of the year, had promised to return the favor and visit the former mayor in Florida. He had chosen to stick out a final year to see to fruition the city’s next big development – the McCarthy Corporate Park just west of Gilroy Foods.

The area is the stage for Gilroy’s next big wave of development, one that could bring the high-tech and research jobs the city has long craved.

True to his work, his beat up white Honda bears a vanity license plate – “ECON DEV.”

“He was economic development in Gilroy,” Dillon said. “There’s no doubt about that. Those are going to be some mighty mighty tough shoes to fill.”

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