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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


From Encyclopedia Dubuque
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Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

WERTZBERGER, Richard. (Atlantic City, NJ- ). MAYOR. Wertzberger was employed from 1949 to 1981 by the Dubuque Packing Company. From 1981 to 1986 he worked for the Rath Packing Company. He was first elected to the City Council in 1975. In that election he compared city government to big business and promised to bring a businessman's approach to the office if elected. During his campaign he distributed approximately two thousand ten-point questionnaires seeking opinions from Dubuque residents on the issues and visited every department of city government. Wertzberger was an executive with the DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY when he was elected mayor in 1979. In his first statement after being chosen mayor, he listed industrial development as his major area of concern followed by annexation, TOURISM, sewage treatment, solid waste recycling, and the development of the downtown area. (1) His focus on tourism had been supported by his help in arranging a visit to Dubuque of the "Sergeant Floyd" museum boat. (2)

During his years in city government, Wertzberger witnessed the Dubuque Water Works nearly double in size. URBAN RENEWAL began with the closing of Main Street between 5th and 9th STREETS to develop a center for offices and small shops, and the first city-parking ramp was constructed. Annexation of property including Barony Woods was ratified. This was important in increasing Dubuque's tax base. In 1978 when the city council had been intent on the annexation of 6.1 square miles to expand the city limits, Wertzberger had suggested "leapfrogging" from one section to another in separate referendums. (3) Dubuque was then the most densely populated city in Iowa. The first city-zoning ordinance was enacted, and public hearings were held concerning the proposed highway construction. Wertzberger chaired the DMATS (Dubuque Metropolitan Area Transportation Study Committee) for two-two year terms beginning in 1976. (4) He also chaired the committee to bring the WILLIAM M. BLACK to Dubuque. The year Wertzberger was mayor, the FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER was dedicated. He was also instrumental in obtaining federal funding for the Radford Road industrial park. (5) Indicating the popularity from organizations for having proclamations made, Wertzberger in his year as mayor signed 44. (6)

Wertzberger chaired the Dubuque Regional Airport Commission, DUBUQUE BUSINESS HALL OF FAME and served on the board of directors of [[DUPACO COMMUNITY CREDIT UNION[[, MERCY HEALTH CENTER, DUBUQUE RACING ASSOCIATION, JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT OF THE HEARTLAND, and the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. He chaired the "Boost Dubuque Days" that was a combined effort of the DUBUQUE PACKING COMPANY, TRAUSCH BAKING COMPANY, and Hilldale Dairy to make people realize the importance of local businesses. This preceded Dubuque’s LEGISLATIVE DAYS in Des Moines. From 1986 through 1991 he was the Director of Corporate Facilities for CyCare Systems. (7) Upon the retirement of Steve Horman from his position as president and chief executive officer, the DUBUQUE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE appointed Wertzberger as its interim director in 2002. (8)

In 2004 Richard Wertzberger was the recipient of the FIRST CITIZEN AWARD.



1. "Industry Tops New Mayor Wertzberger's Priorities," Telegraph Herald, January 3, 1979, p. 4

2. Griffin, Suzanne, "Wertzberger Takes Out Papers," Telegraph-Herald, September 2, 1975, p. 7

3. "Dubuque City Council Sets Its Jaw: Annexation or Bust," Telegraph Herald, January 31, 1978, p. 4

4. "Wertzberger Re-elected DMATS Head," Telegraph Herald, December 22, 1978, p. 7

5. Hendricks, Mike, "Crowd Confronts Culver on Abortion," Telegraph Herald, October 26, 1980, p. 21

6. Hendricks, Mike, "Proclamations Not Just for Big-Timers," Telegraph Herald, September 21, 1980, p. 1

7. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, " 'Mr. Dubuque' Puts Community First," Telegraph Herald, January 1, 2005, p. 1

8. Kittle, M. D., "Horman Set to Retire from Chamber Post," Telegraph Herald, May 31, 2002, p. 2a