Admired and respected, James Wildish will be remembered as a leader in the aggregate and construction industries. His passing on January 24 at age 89 touches many.
He became the president/CEO of Wildish Land Co in 1991 and took great pride when the company received Oregon State University’s 1996 Austin Family Business of the Year Award. Yet, he relished even more the national, state, and regional awards for safety, because they reflected employees’ attention to detail on the worksite and on keeping each other safe. He was very proud of the two first place Associated General Contractors of America national awards the company received for its safety practices. He treated employees like family and his influence helped many to stretch and become more than they thought possible.
Industry leaders remember him:
When Jim spoke, people listened, because what he had to say mattered. I have the utmost respect for how he ran his company, treated his employees and gave back to the community. Hamilton and Wildish partnered on several projects, and often we did business on a handshake. Jim’s word was his bond, and he never broke it. – Scott Williams, Chairman, Hamilton Construction
When I think of Jim, I remember one of the very first jobs, some 50 years ago. It was a job for the city and we were a sub with Wildish. It didn’t go well. Jim told us that we had a case for a change order. We had no idea where to begin. He guided us through and ended up coming with us to the city to plead our case. As I recall, he did all the negotiating for us and convinced them to award us more money. We listened carefully and learned a lifelong lesson. – Jeanne Staton, Station Companies
Jim had three passions, first his family, then his company and, of course, his love for University of Oregon’s football team. Jim was a soft spoken, highly intelligent leader who deeply cared about all his employees and his community. Jim was the best example of how a man should live his life. – Ted Aadland
Jim helped build a highly successful company while maintaining the respect of his employees, clients, and competitors. Whenever Jim was present or simply mentioned, someone would say something positive about his integrity – and there would be universal agreement. I suspect that most people think about Jim in the exact same way: hard working, authentic, smart, and humble. That consistency and positivity are rare and inspiring. – John Hickey, Executive Director, Asphalt Pavement Association of Oregon
He learned the family business from the ground up, running a loader in the yard at age 18. He enjoyed all aspects of the company and led its growth and prosperity with humility and determination. A recognized industry leader, he received lifetime achievement awards from the Associated General Contractors of Oregon (Sir Award in 2008), Asphalt Paving Association of Oregon (2016), and from the Oregon Concrete and Aggregate Producers Association (2018).
Among Oregon’s business leaders, Jim was recognized for his leadership as Eugene’s First Citizen in 2004, named Springfield’s Distinguished Citizen in 2009 and served on the US Bank Community Board for a decade. He received the 2012 Ethics in Business Award from Oregon Ethics in Business, as well as the Exemplary Ethical Leadership Award from Bushnell University in 2013.
His community service touched well over 100 nonprofit organizations over his lifetime, including 58 years of continuous service with Boy Scouts of America and 45 years with Rotary International. He never sought leadership positions, but his steady and dedicated presence saw him recognized in this sector, too. Jim didn’t just donate to causes he supported, he also willingly gave his time and energy.