Zimmerly hopes to keep seat on commission

After 14 years on the LaBelle City Commission, Hilda Zimmerly has not lost the will and the heart to serve her community.

A 41-year resident of LaBelle, she and her family arrived here from Northeastern Ohio, where she taught for four years before leaving the profession to raise her family. When the family relocated here, this wife and mother continued to work for the people in her new community through service to its children, schools and churches. Ms. Zimmerly raised three children in LaBelle and has 13 grandchildren. All have remained in LaBelle, except one grandchild who is a chef in Arizona.

Years of hands-on work as leader of a 4-H sewing club and various women’s committees have provided her with a strong “feel” for the community and its needs, as well as a fundamental connection with its people.

Ms. Zimmerly has a total of some 15 years’ teaching experience, much of it at LaBelle Elementary but also at Country Oaks Elementary and in Moore Haven, where she utilized her certification in library science from the University of South Florida. Her experiences as a teacher have cemented the connections she earned in her other service.

During her career as a public servant on the city commission, Ms. Zimmerly has represented her constituents during some very hard times for both the residents and the city. She helped guide the board through the recession, sharing in the tough decisions that were necessary to make it through the long haul.

She said she is most proud of helping the city to finally solve the water issues that plagued its residents for so many years.

She has continued to apply herself to the ever-constant problems of improving parks and roads. Knowing their importance in the everyday lives of the people, Ms. Zimmerly also understands that these are ongoing issues without a real ending. Streets will always need to be repaved. It’s a struggle to keep them up, given the cost to such a small community. So the board is in an everlasting search for state funding and grants. The same holds true for parks.

Her background as a teacher, mother and wife have provided her with a feel for youth and she is keenly aware of their needs. She concedes that the city lacks youth programs and she doesn’t stop working to provide more. We’re too small for a YMCA and there is no pool, but she holds out hope for the future.

Growth is another ongoing issue. It’s necessary, she says, and inevitable, but tricky. Balancing the needs of newcomers with the existing community’s resources, culture and needs creates tension and often resists easy answers. She is hopeful of attracting new and desirable business to help share the load.

Receiving a special award in recognition of over 20 years of community service, presented by US Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, stands as a high point in her service. The award became a permanent part of the Congressional Record through the Congressional speech during Women’s History Month in March of 2016.

Going into the election this summer she feels, perhaps, that a willingness to listen to her constituents and face the issues fairly may be her most important characteristics as a city commissioner. In all her years on the board, Ms. Zimmerly points out that she has only missed two or three meetings and has consistently represented the city in all its endeavors.

Not ready to walk away from office, she wants to continue her service to the community with the fairness and openness she said she has always tried to bring to the table.

Patty Brant, can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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