The county’s new assessor admits he’ll be “drinking out of a fire hose” the next few weeks as the process of reassessing real property is well under way in the office he’s assuming.
But Jake Zimmerman said he will use that time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of systems and processes in the county’s new elective office.
“Hopefully No. 1 we can do some triage and No. 2 get an opportunity to see what is and isn’t working so that I can work with the staff and work with the taxpayers and stake-holders to try to build a more accountable and responsive process,” he said.
Zimmerman, a Democrat, was sworn in as county assessor on Wednesday, roughly two weeks after he captured more than 63 percent of the vote to win election to a position that for years has been appointive.
Official final April 5 election results show Zimmerman, a former state representative, received 73,396 votes — 63.7 percent — while Republican challenger L.K. “Chip” Wood received 41,656 votes — 36.1 percent.
In south county, Zimmerman handily won four townships — Concord, Gravois, Lemay and Oakville — with 55 percent of the vote or more. He narrowly lost the Concord Township, receiving 49.4 percent of the vote to Wood’s 50.6 percent.
“It was a pretty commanding victory,” Zimmerman said. “We did well throughout the county, and we won in south county which is a relatively rare thing for a Democrat.”
However, he added, “There’s some 36 percent of voters in the county that didn’t vote for me and the important thing is that my job is to serve their interests as well as everybody else’s.”
One way Zimmerman plans to do that is opening a dialogue with his opponent.
“There’s not a Democratic or Republican way to assess a house. There’s not a Democratic or Republican way to do this job …,” he said. “Chip had a lot of good ideas. He had some very thoughtful comments on the campaign trail about the importance of making the appeals process more streamlined and easy to go through — and also perhaps reducing the need for appeals in the first place. I’m eager to sit down and talk with him and share some ideas back and forth.”
Zimmerman will serve until Dec. 31, 2014, at which point whomever voters elected that November will become assessor. From that point on, the assessor will elected every four years.
Missouri voters on Nov. 2 approved a constitutional amendment requiring the election of the St. Louis County assessor, previously an appointed position. County voters overwhelmingly approved an identical charter amendment in the Aug. 3 primary election.
Proponents of making the assessor an elective position contended doing so would make the office more accountable to taxpayers. Zimmerman indicated the key to being an accountable assessor will be making himself accessible to constituents.
“I’m envisioning being in the community a lot,” he said. “I’m envisioning town-hall meetings and one-on-one meetings with stakeholders and everything we need to do to hear people’s ideas and also make sure folks understand what’s really going on.”