Longtime Arkansas Municipal League director dies at 75

Posted: June 25, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.
Updated: June 25, 2018 at 11:10 a.m.

 Arkansas Municipal League executive director Don Zimmerman is shown in this file photo.

Arkansas Municipal League executive director Don Zimmerman is shown in this file photo.

Don Zimmerman, the longtime executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, died Sunday in Little Rock. He was 75.

Zimmerman had been working for the league for 52 years at the time of his death, and had served as agency executive director since 1974. In that time, Zimmerman became known for his willingness to aid any city in Arkansas, said North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith, the current league president.

"He wanted every city to be as good as it could be," Smith said. "Everybody got treated the same. Everybody got the same help because we all have the same issues."

Smith said Zimmerman had been ill for about two months.

"I've known Don for 30 years," Smith said. "We all have heavy hearts today."

The Arkansas Municipal League announced Zimmerman's death late Sunday.

"It's in times, such as this, that Don's incredible work ethic, affection and dedication for the cities and towns of Arkansas is carried on in his memory," read a league news release Sunday. "We are heartbroken, as a staff, but know that Don Zimmerman wants us to carry on for the cities and towns of Arkansas."

Former Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey said Zimmerman held sway with state and national leaders and fought many battles for the betterment of the state.

"Don was revered, respected and in many ways, probably feared by people in legislative groups -- particularly at the state or federal levels," Dailey said. "He knew what he was talking about. He did his homework. He was respected nationwide, if not worldwide."

Two years after graduating from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in 1964, Zimmerman joined the Arkansas Municipal League as a field representative. Before taking the job of executive director, he also served as managing editor of the league's magazine, on the legislative counsel and as assistant director of the league.

Alongside his duties as executive director of the league, Zimmerman served two terms on the the league's national board of directors and as administrator of the Municipal Legal Defense Program, the Municipal Health Benefit Fund, the Municipal Vehicle Program and the Municipal Property Program.

"He was a very dynamic leader who took the Arkansas Municipal League to be the best municipal league in the country," Smith said. "I don't think anybody would question that. He was a great leader and just as good a friend. All 500 cities [in the league] are going to miss him."

News of Zimmerman's death spread quickly Sunday night, with mayors, state representatives and longtime friends expressing their condolences on social media.

Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola called Zimmerman a "stalwart advocate" for the cities and towns of the state, and said Arkansas had lost a legend in Zimmerman's death.

"This is a very sad day with the loss of my friend Don Zimmerman," Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said on Twitter. "He mentored so many mayors through the years, including my dad who considered Don as one of the best. Don was a great Arkansan and always put his family first but loved Arkansas very deeply."

Metro on 06/25/2018