Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 12, 2004

Tom Ollig: 10 years at TDS and still full of new ideas

By Ryan Gueningsman

"To come up with all the things we've come up with over the years, you've gotta be just a little goofy, said Tom Ollig of TDS TELECOM.

"My friends and I are just a little goofy, so don't be surprised if we come up with something else."

Ollig, who recently celebrated 10 years with TDS, was one of the original "world famous" Bratbusters, and hinted that the original members might make a cameo appearance at this year's Crazy Days.

He has been on and off of the Winsted City Council for 20 years, and was one of the "founding fathers" of the Winstock Country Music Festival.

"I'll be out someplace, and somebody will say 'Where are you from?,' and I say 'Winsted' and they'll go 'Oh yeah, Winstock,'" he said.

He has also been involved in Holy Trinity Parish, serving on numerous committees, and has been president of the Winsted Chamber of Commerce three times.

Ollig and his friend, Gary Lenz, started the Winsted Winter Festival parade, and the two also co-chaired Winsted's centennial celebration in 1987.

Ollig and his wife LuAnn have been married 30 years and have four children, Michelle (Campbell), who is studying nursing; Beth, who works at AT&T Wireless; Laura, who is a junior at St. Scholastica, studying nursing; and Breanna, who is in eighth grade at Holy Trinity.

Ollig is also proud of the newest member of their family ­ his first granddaughter, Madison, who is Michelle and her husband Jeff's daughter.

"I've spent a considerable part of my life investing in Winsted, but it's been fun," Ollig said. "I've probably gotten more back than I've ever given. That's the neat thing about Winsted. There are so many people here willing to give their time and make the community better."

A part of Winsted's telephone history

Tom Ollig has been a part of the Winsted community his whole life.

His grandparents purchased Winsted Telephone Company from his great uncle back in the 1930s, Ollig said.

"My father, John, got involved for a number of years as a child, then he ran it, and as I grew up, on weekends and summers I worked here," Ollig said.

After John's passing in 1982, Ollig, his brothers Mark and Michael, and their mother, Therese, ran the company until its sale.

"It was just a lot of fun," Ollig said. In November 1993, Ollig's family sold it to TDS TELECOM.

Two years prior to that, he and his family started to look at the changing telephone industry, and as technology changes, it would be difficult to generate the money needed to keep up with all the changes.

"We made a decision to sell the company. We looked at a lot of companies and had a lot of interest, but we chose TDS because they have a history of keeping the employees and keeping the office open, and that was important to our family because for 70 years, the Winsted Telephone Company has been a big part of Winsted."

Ollig remained at Winsted as manager for about one year. TDS purchased the Monticello Telephone Company, and requested that Ollig go to Monticello and manage that company.

Ollig was called back to his duties of managing the Winsted office in July 2000.

"I was very happy about that because Winsted is my home," Ollig said. "It was fun to come back."

Now, Ollig spends one day a week in Winsted, and the other four in Monticello. Originally, he tried to keep the day he was in Winsted the same, but that became too hard to do.

TDS has brought DSL to Winsted, and now is involved in possibly bringing metro calling to Winsted.

"To be honest, working for TDS TELECOM has been fun. It's a good company, and the industry is changing fast.

"If our family still owned the company, I'm not so sure we would have DSL and some of the other products we have, simply because of the costs involved, and that would be a disservice to the community.

"Winsted is going to grow, and the telephone company is a big part of that," Ollig said.

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