Friday, January 9, 2009

Living Jews: Missouri State Representative, Jake Zimmerman Part 1

The latest in The St. Lou Jew's series on young Jews who are doing big things, today we bring you an interview with State Rep Jake Zimmerman, read on to learn more about what role being Jewish and from St. Louis played in his life, what its like adjusting to Jefferson City (the capital of MO), and a few good digs on Jeff Smith

For those of you regular readers, you may recall a post from a month or two back, in which LC and I were panelists at the St. Louis Jewish Federation's Board of Trustees meeting. Aside from being a great experience, legitimizing our role and voice in the community, and feeding our egos, the event also gave us the opportunity to network.

When Stuart Zimmerman, Principal at The Buckingham Family of Financial Services approached me afterwards and told me that he wanted to introduce me to his son Jake, the State Rep, I jumped at the opportunity.

Zuz and I caught up with Jake for a phone interview while he was on his way to Jefferson City.

Jake took a moment to activate his Blue Tooth headset and call us back to avoid, "hurting someone."

When we asked Jake to describe how he ended up in Politics in Missouri, he asked if we had specific questions or just wanted him to start talking, and have us try to shift the conversation as we went. Seeing as how he is a politician, we figured he would be most comfortable just talking until he made a gaffe.

Background: The Jake Zimmerman Story

STL born and bred, Jake grew up in family that took the whole Jewish thing pretty seriously. They belonged to Bnai Emunah, Jake attended Hebrew school, Camp Ramah, all of that was a big part of who he was.

He remembers leafing through Pirkei Avot, and finding random passages that advised Jews not to get involved in secular politics, only to have his dad point out on the next page another rabbi who thought that sacrificing pigeons was the most important thing. Luckily for fans of Jake Zimmerman the Politician, he quickly came to the conclusion that maybe Pirkei Avot wouldn't be the be all end all in his life.

Like any good aspiring politician, Jake has spent a fair amount of time in DC working on the Hill, and even at one point as an intern in Bill Clinton's White House, to which Jake added, "insert joke here!"

While in law school at Harvard, Jake spent summers in STL, realizing that "I wanted to be in this community and do things here."

After law school, Jake returned to St. Louis, where he worked first for area law firm, Thompson Coburn, saying that, " On the East Coast, Harvard Law degrees are a dime a dozen...in St. Louis, they are a little less common than in New York."

"After law school I knew that I didn't want to work for someone else's agenda to play in the DC rat race game.

Living the Dream, Jake left the firm to work in consumer protection for the MO Attorney General's office, completing what he calls the ultimate tragedy for his concerned Jewish mother.

After his work at the AG, Jake was given the opportunity to be the deputy chief counsel for the governor, an opportunity that you just don't say no to and besides, he recognized that he needed real experience to do something that mattered in the community, "which I think comes back to Jewish values," adds Jake.

Being the Jewish guy in the governor's office was interesting. The Jewish community is small but an influential demographic, and his knowledge of the people and their issues made Jake useful.

When Governor Holden was voted out, Jake returned to STL and Thompson Coburn.

"At that point I knew I wanted to run for office. If you want to work for someone in politics who you agree with 100% of the time, who you think will do the right thing all the time, you have you be that politician.

I had a whole plan to run for the County Council as my first step. It was a complete and utter failure. You see, I wasn't the only one with this idea, but I was the least experienced with the idea. Even though I ended up not running, I made myself a reputation as someone you couldn't throw under the carpet, and luckily caught the attention of the right people.

Running for office is like starting a small business. I was lucky to have a lot of people who put money and endorsements behind my campaign. If not for the parental instincts of the Jewish community, my career as a politician may never have gotten off the ground."

So County Council was out, but party officials encouraged Jake to run for the state legislature in the Fightin' 83rd District in St. Louis County. Was Jake's campaign successful? What are his thoughts on what St. Louis needs to grow and thrive? And what's the inside scoop you can only get here. Stay tuned for Part Two to find out!

1 comment:

Ariel said...

I really like that he says:

"I wanted to be in this community and do things here."

probably just the politician talking, but it's nice to hear the "I want to live in St. Louis" sentiment.