Jake Zimmerman

It is becoming our perennial regret in endorsing Jake Zimmerman for St. Louis County assessor that he is not running for a more impactful position. We liked him for Missouri attorney general in 2016, when he lost the Democratic primary in a red-wave election cycle that saw Josh Hawley, the Republican nominee, win the general election by 17 points. We would have liked him for St. Louis County executive in 2018, though he would have had to wage a bitter and expensive primary against an incumbent Democrat just two years after exhausting his donor base for a primary that he lost. 

We still like him – very much – for St. Louis County assessor, and his good work in the office reminds us that this, too, is an impactful position. As assessor, Zimmerman has fought hard to make sure the middle class and low-income citizens do not pay an unfair tax burden because businesses and wealthier citizens have managed to exploit the tax code and deceive the assessor and the public that elected him.

Zimmerman has fought hard to make sure that casinos – experts in making off with the public’s hard-earned money – pay their fair share of taxes. When he saw that St. Louis County was growing in acres of reported farmland without actually growing any more crops, he cracked down on fake farmers trying to get a tax break they don’t deserve when they tried to claim commercial development or shopping center property as “agricultural” property. He also stymied high-end senior citizen centers trying to wrangle an undeserved tax break by claiming somehow to be a charity. To be clear, it would be in the self-interest of an assessor to look the other way at these shenanigans and grow his moneyed donor base, but Zimmerman acted in the public interest – in so doing, making more work for himself and his staff in fighting these well-off would-be scofflaws.

The public has not heard much about the county assessor since Zimmerman was elected in 2011, and that is due to journalists’ customary zeal for reporting on fraud and conflict in government. There has been no shortage of alleged fraud and evident conflict in St. Louis County government between 2011 and now, but none of it has been in Zimmerman’s office. He has run his office with a high degree of professionalism and integrity. At a time when other branches of county government are often in the news for the wrong reasons, Zimmerman’s office has been a model of respectful competence.

A former state representative who lives in Olivette, Zimmerman has been hailed consistently as a good colleague by African Americans who served alongside him. Running for reelection countywide on November 6, he touts endorsements by two of the most respected and influential African Americans in county politics, former state Senator Rita Heard Days and County Councilwoman Hazel Erby. Days praised Zimmerman’s record as assessor for “fixing problems and fighting for fairness,” which is indisputable, and raised questions about his Republican opponent. “Jake’s opponent goes on social media rants about past assessments,” Days said. “It’s clear he wants to be assessor for himself and his friends.” Erby said she supports candidates who “seek to eliminate discrimination,” and therefore Zimmerman has her support. “There is no room for discrimination of any kind in property assessment,” Erby said. “Jake has worked hard to make sure the system works hard for everyone, not just the powerful and well off.”

We agree. St. Louis County taxpayers would benefit far more if Zimmerman were on the November 6 ballot for county executive, but they can be assured that their properties and taxes are in fair, competent, equitable hands with the incumbent assessor. We strongly endorse JAKE ZIMMERMAN FOR ST. LOUIS COUNTY ASSESSOR.

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