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Editorial: Re-elect Jake Zimmerman

Three years ago, lawyer and then-state Rep. Jake Zimmerman became the first elected assessor in more than 50 years in St. Louis County.

This page endorsed the Democrat then — despite disagreeing with the voters and the Legislature’s decision to politicize the job — and it endorses him again, in his race against Republican Andrew Ostrowski.

Mr. Zimmerman, 40, has demonstrated a professional approach to the $95,000-a-year position and has delivered on his campaign promise of making the office customer-friendly. He has also waged, and won, some tax battles.

The first one, shortly after Mr. Zimmerman took office in 2011, involved aircraft that were not properly listed on the county’s personal property tax rolls. He recouped $1.6 million for the county by collecting the lawful taxes on the aircraft.

He also took out after “fake farmers” — some residents of west St. Louis County who were falsely seeking agricultural tax credits, and he raised the appraised value and tax liability for some area gambling casinos.

Prompted by a Post-Dispatch investigation last year that found tax exemptions had been granted by the St. Louis County Council on luxurious senior centers owned by nonprofit corporations, Mr. Zimmerman began a review of tax-exempt properties across the county that is still underway.

Ben Murray, Mr. Zimmerman’s campaign spokesman, said the review so far has resulted in the removal of dozens of inappropriate exemptions and that more are expected.

Voters should reward Mr. Zimmerman’s zealous efforts to capture the tax dollars needed to run county government, to help suffering school districts and to maintain needed services.

He has demonstrated that politicizing the assessor’s office was not a bad thing for county residents, and has shown himself to be free of the unsavory influence of developers that can plague county office holders.

The incumbent has proven he is working for the best interests of the citizens of St. Louis County, and we recommend a yes vote for re-election on Nov. 4.

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