Carol Zimmerman came to Tucson as a college drop-out and eventually became Chief of Staff for a mayor of Tucson. But that's not the only remarkable transition that Carol Zimmerman has made during her career.
As college student in ÌÇ70s at the University of Massachusetts, she was very involved in the anti-war movement. 'I was the head of the student mobilization group and worked on the McGovern campaign.'
When Nixon won the 1972 presidential election in a landslide (Zimmerman takes some delight in the fact that Massachusetts is the only state McGovern won), she became disillusioned with how our country was changing and more interested in working for political change than in studying nursing. 'I dropped out of college, drove across the country and ran out of money in Tucson.'
One evening in a 4th Avenue bar started her on a new path. 'The manager of the 4th Avenue bar approached me and asked if I would consider working as a bouncer. Since I'm 5' tall, I thought he was joking.' But he wasn't and Zimmerman not only took the job, she married the manager, Peter Zimmerman, who has been her husband for 35 years and now is her business partner.
She returned to college to finish her nursing degree, graduated valedictorian of her class, but never became a nurse. As an undergraduate, she had worked with a program that offered alternatives to prison time for juvenile offenders with minor crimes and decided that it could use a component for young women. 'I'm the oldest of five kids so I've always been bossy.'
So at the age of 25, Zimmerman designed such a program and became its first director. Guiding 'New Directions for Young Women' launched her career in public service. 'This job really taught me how to engage the community and work with community leaders. I even got to meet Gloria Steinem.'
Her son Colin was born in 1979 and after six weeks maternity leave, she was back at work, baby in tow. 'I was traveling a lot and did a lot of juggling.'
Soon Zimmerman began working on various political campaigns, eventually becoming the campaign manager for Tom Volgy's run for City Council, then later for mayor.
Carols says that her son learned a lot about politics growing up. 'When he was a little boy he often suggested, ÌÇLet's play meeting.''
When Volgy won the mayoral election in 1987, Zimmerman became his Chief of Staff. 'I really didn't know how to run a political office,' Zimmerman says. 'But I knew how the community worked and I'm a quick study on issues.'
After leaving the Mayor's office, she took a job as Director of Development for St. Gregory's College Preparatory School. Even though she had never really worked in fundraising, she realized that all of her jobs had been about relationship building. She led the school's largest capital campaign, raising $4.7 million in just three years.
In 1997, Zimmerman made her own foray into politics, with an unsuccessful run for City Council. 'I change my life about every 8 years or so. Doors open and I step through them. I'm not afraid of change.'
In 2000, Zimmerman founded a survey research firm which has merged with her husband's public affairs, advertising, and strategic planning company to form Zimmerman & Associates.
In 2002 she was elected to the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the board that oversees the CAP project. She has served on the Board of Directors of Travelers Aid, the Tucson AIDS project, Shalom House, the Girls' Club and the YWCA. She was a founding member of the Tucson Women's Commission. She is a long-time feminist, joining the Women's Political Caucus in the early ÌÇ70s and has served as both its local and state president and as a national Delegate-at-Large.
What's next for Zimmerman? 'I think I'll stick with what I'm doing for a while, but it's time to mentor younger women in a serious way.' She's concerned that young women don't see the battles about job and life choices that previous generations of women fought. 'It's important for us to tell our stories.'