Rieskamp reflects on 20-year council stint

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

After serving a total of 20 years on Lebanon’s City Council, Wayne Rieskamp has stepped down to allow what would be his “younger” opponents in last November’s election an opportunity to provide fresh ideas for the city.
“‘I’ve served in a lot of capacities in the community,” he said. “I thought some new energy, new ideas, was what I could hand off to the community by not running.”
Rieskamp initially joined the council in the 1990s for nine years plus a half-term, then stepped away only because he’d moved out of his ward. He was reelected in 2011 and served another 11 years.
Rieskamp was born in 1941 in Missouri and moved with his family to McMinnville when he was 12 years old. After high school, he started working in mills while attending college until he was promoted to shift supervisor at Willamette Industries, where he worked for 45 years. He completed his 50-year career with another five years at Weyerhaeuser.
The Beavers fan was active in Lebanon at an early age as a sports coach for Community Services, a school-district program for children that mostly involved all boys.

Rieskamp sprays water into a ditch at Cheadle Lake during a mud run event. File photo

He credits a deal he’d made with God as the reason he’s invested so much more into the community since then. In the early 1970s, Rieskamp went to have a tonsillectomy performed after multiple sore throats and tonsillitis. However, his doctor discovered a lump.
“We did all the testing and it was determined I had thyroid cancer,” he said. “It had metastasized and spread to my cervical spine with 13 tumors, and that’s an area where it’s inoperative. They gave me one year to live.”
Rieskamp went to the Corvallis hospital for radioactive treatment, becoming its first patient to undergo that type of treatment.
“They brought this can of radioactive iodine,” he recalled. “Everybody was in white coats, and it was in an aluminum can, like a five-gallon milk can. They brought it in and there was a little vial. I drank it and they put me in isolation.”
He said the drink was sort of warm with kind of a metallic taste.
Every couple of hours the doctors ran a Geiger counter over his body to determine how hot he was from radioactivity.
“It was pretty scary,” he said.
He remained in the hospital for five days, and could not be within six feet of his then-pregnant wife when he returned home.
“I prayed to God it would work and I also told God that I would serve his community,” he said. “And that’s why I started my service to this community.”
Three weeks later the doctors found that 12 of his tumors were gone. So they scheduled another “radioactive cocktail,” in his words, and eradicated the last one. Regular scans since have revealed that no tumors have returned.
Since then, Rieskamp has served on the Parent-Teacher Association budget committees and school boards for the Crowfoot and Lebanon school districts and the Linn, Benton, Lincoln Education Service District, as well as the City of Lebanon’s budget, planning and library advisory committees.
Additionally, he has served with United Way of Linn County, American Cancer Society – Linn County, Boys & Girls Club of the Greater Santiam, Lebanon Chamber of Commerce, Lebanon Community Foundation, Lebanon Public Schools Foundation, Linn County Fair, Lebanon Strawberrians and Christ Community Lutheran Church.
He has also coached football, basketball, baseball and girls softball.
He said that one of his proudest accomplishments was being one of the four founding members of the Boys & Girls Club, where he still sits on the board as a trustee.

Courtesy of City of Lebanon

When he ran for City Council, his three main areas of focus were safety (an adequate police force), health (adequate health facilities for our citizens) and road maintenance.
“Streets have always been a pet peeve of mine because they’re terrible,” he said.
Rieskamp believes the city developed a good police force for a number of years, but lost ground due to recent social changes. There wasn’t much county support for health when he first arrived on the council, but, he said, they were able to help motivate services through the state and county, particularly when the latter was given state and city money to enhance health services.
“They since have done, I think, a pretty remarkable job of providing services in the health area,” he said. “I think health services are always a demanding component of life. So many people can’t afford health services, so there has to be another means of those services that are given to them to get some kind of resource.”
Rieskamp cites highway improvement as perhaps one of the most significant accomplishments during his time with the city. Through partnership between the state, county and city, they were able to improve highways 34 and 20 to Sweet Home.
At the time, he said, the city realized it needed a new water treatment plant, but it opted first to focus on highways.
“If we did not have Highway 34, Lebanon would not be what it is today,” he said. “We would not have Lowe’s or the size of Entek. We would not have the medical college. We had so much commuter traffic to Corvallis, Albany and Salem, that that road was dangerous.”
The water treatment plant eventually came, which took years to finally accomplish, but Rieskamp believes the council made the right decisions at the right time.
As he exits, he discusses two obstacles the city still needs to tackle: relocating to a new or safer city hall building and figuring out how to improve city streets.

WAYNE RIESKAMP, center in rear, and others listen as volunteers from the East Linn Museum discuss their facility’s operations during a visit by Lebanon Museum organizers. File photo

“There’s something I hope can get done that I and the council that served with me over the years was not able to do, and that’s find a funding source to do street maintenance,” he said.
“That is a difficult thing. We’re not the only city that is facing that issue. It would take all of our city budget and we wouldn’t even make a dent in it. Millions of dollars.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take; it’s going to take tax dollars, whether by putting a road tax or gas tax or something. Right now, if people have to vote on it, it’s not going to pass.
“So I don’t have an answer and we haven’t had an answer over the years that I served. But the problem is still there.”