Zimmerman files for commission post

Activist says she will push for more open government
by: , Pat Zimmerman of Scappoose hopes to parlay  her experience as a community activist and manager of high-tech companies into a seat on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.

Saying she wants to improve public access to local government, longtime political activist Pat Zimmerman announced Thursday that she will seek a position on the Columbia County Board of Commissioners.

Zimmerman, 62, will seek the Democratic nomination for a position on the board currently held by Tony Hyde.

The retired computer programmer said she has 'an absolute passion' for the public's right to know and would put it to work as a county commissioner.

'I'd make a big effort to let the public know what their government is doing with their money,' said Zimmerman, who said she has seen the current board adopt 'an attitude of secrecy' over the past four years. 'It is really appalling, and it has steadily gotten worse.'

Zimmerman says she would correct the situation by pushing the board toward meetings times and dates that working people could attend and by posting more of the county's business on its Web site.

'Technology can be a huge money-saver if it's used appropriately,' said the former Intel manager, who at one time supervised a team of 55 engineers. 'A lot of county business could be done over the Web.'

Zimmerman, who has a doctorate in information science, believes technology and better communications could be used to tackle her other pet peeve - the brutal commute that thousands of Columbia County make every day to jobs in Portland. She knows what it's like because she did it for many years. She believes the county could - and should - play a central role in facilitating carpools, buspools, telecommuting and other alternatives to the Highway 30 commute.

A fiber-optic cable that runs along Highway 30 is a potentially valuable untapped resource for the county, according to Zimmerman, who believes it could be used to attract peripheral high-tech companies and family-wage jobs to Columbia County, 'if we create the right atmosphere.'

'I don't see the (current) county commissioners making the slightest effort' in that regard,' said Zimmerman. She says lots of counties have faced job creation and Columbia County could profit from their experience. 'We need to do the research and pick the solutions that make the most sense.'

Zimmerman, who has served as statewide chairperson of the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission's Citizen Involvement Committee, has strong feelings about land use planning. She sees 'rural sprawl' as a major issue in Columbia County as developers look for places out in the country to develop homes.

'We're a target for metro-area developers because every other county in the area has tightened up their own rules,' she said, adding that without sufficient controls country homes increase everybody else's taxes because of the demands they place on county services.

Zimmerman characterizes her politics as socially liberal and fiscally conservative. She says she managed an $80 million budget at Intel, and that experience would serve Columbia County well as it tries to make ends meet in the wake of shrinking O and C timber receipts.

If she is elected, this would be Zimmerman's second foray into elective service. A few years ago she was elected to a term on the St. Helens Port Commission.

Zimmerman has lived in Scappoose since 1979 and is married to Paul Dinu. She grew up mostly in the Chicago area, got her bachelor's degree from the University of Rochester and her doctorate from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.