Independent George Zimmerman runs for register
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Northampton City Treasurer George R. Zimmerman, seen here campaigning in 2012 for Hampshire County Register of Deeds, announced his retirement Friday.
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Independent Register of Deeds Candidate George Zimmerman shares a laugh with supporters at a home in Northampton Wednesday night after a cookout.
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NORTHAMPTON — Northampton resident and City Treasurer George Zimmerman believes nine years of professional real estate investing, during which he had a hand in about a half-billion dollars worth of transactions, prepares him to serve as the county’s next register of deeds.
Zimmerman, 57, is running for the post as an independent against Democratic candidate Mary Olberding.
As Northampton’s treasurer, Zimmerman said he has been proud of his service to a city of about 30,000 but likes the challenge of the opportunity to serve about six times that many in a countywide post.
Zimmerman avoided the fray of the September primary — not, he said, to make his run for the office easier, but to stay true to his political philosophy. He and Olberding are vying for a post long held by Marianne L. Donohue, who retired in September 2011.
“The position should not be about politics; it’s about getting the job done,” Zimmerman said. “It’s true to who I am.”
During his career in real estate investing, Zimmerman analyzed, negotiated and closed about $350 million worth of commercial real estate property deals, managing an investment portfolio worth about $150 million. He believes that experience working within a complex real estate system equips him to be register of deeds.
He said the complexity of that job is likely to increase as the register’s office updates its technology for both staff and customers.
“There’s a lot of change in the winds,” he said. He noted that he would like to serve the registry in an expanded role beyond that of merely managing staff and providing oversight.
Among Zimmerman’s supporters are Northampton residents Michael and Patricia Ahearn, who have been encouraging their friends and neighbors to vote for him.
Patricia Ahearn, who serves with Zimmerman on the Board of Almoners, said his legal and real estate knowledge and background make him the ideal candidate. She said she feels he’ll excel in the role of register with the same integrity and know-how he demonstrates on the board and as treasurer.
Zimmerman said he has taken a multi-pronged approach to introducing himself to people outside of Northampton. He attended as many functions in other communities as possible to meet the “movers and shakers.” He also went door to door to meet people and leave literature, and conducted a high-visibility lawn-sign campaign to get his name out beyond Northampton.
Zimmerman said if elected he would have the opportunity to combine his passions for real estate and public service. The register position, which oversees land records and transactions in the county and provides access to them, pays $90,000 annually. The register has a staff of seven.
If elected Zimmerman will step down as city treasurer, a position he’s held for eight years.
One of Zimmerman’s accomplishments during that time was significantly reducing the amount of delinquent tax bills due to the city.
When Zimmerman took over the office in 2004, the city was owed about $2 million in back taxes from approximately 160 properties. By 2012, both of those numbers had been cut nearly in half, to $1 million owed on about 86 properties.
He said because the role of register, similar to that of treasurer, is one of service to citizens regardless of party affiliation, he believes it should be appointed, not elected. In Northampton he was elected treasurer for two two-year terms before the post was changed to an appointed position four years ago when the city’s charter was revised.
Zimmerman maintains that if voters consider qualifications rather than party loyalty at the polls, he will win the seat.
“I consider myself to be applying for a job with the voters, and I’m asking to be hired by the voters of Hampshire County,” he said.
To that end, Zimmerman touts his seven years of work as a real estate investor and two years as director of reinsurance, and his six years as a practicing estate planning attorney, all for Springfield-based MassMutual.
A member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Zimmerman also serves on several municipal boards.
He is a father of four and a widower whose wife, Robyn, died from a brain tumor in 2001.
Zimmerman earned his law degree from Western New England College School of Law, and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977, and a master’s degree in business in 1980, both from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.