By Ralph Schwartz
Iconoclast Ferndale City Council member Lloyd Zimmerman announced at the Monday, Jan. 7 meeting that he will not seek re-election this fall.
He is, so to speak, picking up is energy-efficient, double-dome swimming pool and going home.
In an interview, Zimmerman, 55, said he was fed up with “small-town politics,” calling them “ugly” and “brutal.”
Philosophical differences, among other things, have led to “an incredible amount of animosity developed between myself and the mayor, and some of the senior council,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman was appointed in 2008 to take over Gary Jensen’s council seat after Jensen was elected mayor. Zimmerman was reelected without opposition in November 2009. He also ran unsuccessfully for mayor against Jensen in 2011, getting less than one third of the vote.
The conflict between the mayor and the outgoing council member has been over city priorities. Ferndale has brought on unnecessary debt through ill-advised capital investments such as the police station that opened last fall, in Zimmerman’s view.
Lynden, by contrast, has five fewer police officers but is able to fund a parks department — unlike Ferndale, Zimmerman said.
“I’m a real quality of life person. I watched the whole thing be gutted over the years. … It’s been so painful,” Zimmerman said.
The touchstone of Zimmerman’s quality of life approach to governing is his idea for a double-dome community center with a swimming pool, an idea he has advanced for some 15 years. Zimmerman and his donors haven’t been able to acquire a property to build on.
In another vote to protect his vision of Ferndale aesthetics and quality of life, Zimmerman opposed the “planned action area” created a year ago around the Interstate 5-Main Street interchange, to attract big-box stores and other development, in part to increase the city’s sales tax revenue.
“Gary thinks plopping a big Wal-Mart on I-5 and Main Street is going to be our financial salvation. I just think that would change things drastically,” Zimmerman said.
“Gary and I go back 30 or 40 years in a small town. I like him as a person, but I just want to get off the bus. I’m a minority opinion. Since we lost (ex-council member Steve) Malpezzi, we got a bunch of angry white senior citizens” on the council, Zimmerman said.
Jensen has said often that it’s not his policies that get enacted in Ferndale. It’s those of a majority of the council.
The mayor said he understands Zimmerman’s frustration with his role on the council.
“I know Lloyd is frustrated because he never gets the majority of people to move forward” on a proposal, Jensen said. “With Lloyd, you’ll typically have, out of 10 ideas, two of them that are pretty good. Eight of them are off-center, that aren’t very mainstream.”
Zimmerman said he wanted to announce his intention not to run again early in the year, to give anyone thinking about joining the council plenty of notice. Filing week for candidates for the 2013 elections is May 13-17.
“I think he should be commended for announcing early,” Jensen said. “That gives citizens out there a chance to attend (council) meetings and do some research.”