We will miss a true friend to Gilroy

Right place. Right time. Right man. A significant convergence doesn’t happen that often, so in the case of Bill Lindsteadt meets Gilroy it surely must have been meant to be.

But the memorial service for Gilroy’s economic development director Monday wasn’t just a service for someone who accomplished much for the city of Gilroy – although Lindsteadt certainly did that. The service was for a true friend of Gilroy, because that’s who Bill Lindsteadt was. Agree or disagree with his politics or policy pushing, one couldn’t argue with Lindsteadt’s heart: he wanted a thriving Gilroy with enough money in the city coffers for police, recreation, swept streets and smooth sidewalks. And he wanted jobs for people who needed them. By the way, a “good job” in Lindsteadt’s dictionary was simple to define – a “good job” was a job somebody wanted.

Lindsteadt didn’t complain about what Gilroy didn’t have or couldn’t offer. He worked with the city’s potential – its location, its business community and its willingness to see itself as a center for a new dynamic in a growing region. Lindsteadt had a vision, but more than that he had the drive to “move the pile.” He did that in the same tradition that the offensive line of his beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers did – with grit and determination.

He believed in hard work, and he believed in having a good time. That combination made him virtually unbeatable in the arena of economic development. Not only did Bill Lindsteadt enjoy talking a good game, he loved to carry the ball and score.

When he came to Gilroy in 1996, the match between a city looking for a prosperous future and a personality that could turn that desire into concrete results couldn’t have been better. Lindsteadt didn’t “pussy foot around.” He took his role as an advocate for business seriously. At his memorial service, a colleague commented that Lindsteadt saw the government permit process as an affirmative process, a process that should not be allowed to take on characteristics of prohibition. That comment embodied his philosophy, honed on years of experience, perfectly. He was always thinking, “We need to get this done, how are we going to do it?”

Lindsteadt moved between the world of developers and the world of bureaucrats well, if not easily. He managed in most cases to keep both focused on a common goal and to break down the barriers that stood between Gilroy and prosperity. When you sat down with him for lunch, a briefing or a meeting, you knew where he stood and why.

It is noteworthy that he unselfishly took the time and trouble to explain his position and the economic common sense it made for Gilroy to numerous young reporters from this newspaper. He did that because he knew it was the right thing to do for Gilroy. He chose not just to advocate from a bully pulpit, he wanted people to understand his message.

His untimely passing leaves a gap for our city that will be difficult to fill. Gilroy will greatly miss his outspoken advice and bountiful economic energy.

We will remember him, though, just as much for his barbershop quartet bass, his competitive spirit, his burly embrace, his ability to command in a friendly manner – “Hey, I want to talk to you …” and, most importantly, for his friendship bestowed on our fair city.

He most certainly deserved the honor that would have been formally given to him on Feb. 5 at the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner … Bill Lindsteadt, 2004 Man of the Year.

Gilroy and Nebraska can be proud.

~ Mark Derry

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