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Bielenberg Drive is one of Woodbury’s busiest thoroughfares. Bielenberg Sports Center is one of the largest athletic complexes in Minnesota. Soon, Bielenberg Gardens will become one more busy retail center as the city continues its relentless path of growth.

So, where did this long and bouncy name come from?

Orville Bielenberg was Woodbury’s first mayor. But more than that, even though his family had been deep-rooted in farming in Woodbury since the 1870s, Bielenberg could foresee the steady march of development, and ultimately played a pivotal role in overseeing the transition of his community from rural township to bustling village to fast-growing suburban city.

Bielenberg had already been serving on the Township Board for seven years, and was its chairman in 1967 when Woodbury residents made the momentous decision to incorporate as a village, the first step to becoming a city seven years later. He was the logical choice to be the first mayor, a post he served for 15 years. He also worked for the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Minnesota as a plot supervisor in greenhouses and at experimental growing fields in Rosemount.

Bielenberg started the city’s first police department, replacing the township’s constables, and helped draw the first businesses to the city. In 1960, Woodbury was a sleepy township of about 3,000 people. By the time Bielenberg died in 1999, there were more than 45,000 people living in the city. Now, there are about 66,000.

Bielenberg continued running his family’s dairy farm at the intersection of what is now Radio Drive and Bailey Road even as development swallowed up the countryside. The Bielenberg Sports Center and Bielenberg Gardens sit where the farm used to be, which is now one of the fastest-growing areas of Woodbury.

As for Bielenberg Drive, the story goes that it was renamed while the ever-humble Bielenberg was out of the country. Otherwise, he likely would not have approved of the change.

Jim Anderson