Leon Zimmerman, a member of harness racing's Communicators Hall of Fame who has for the last two years spearheaded a committee to bring the by-laws of the U.S. Harness Writers Association up to '21st-century code,' has been selected as USHWA's Member of the Year.
Zimmerman is a 45-year veteran of the Trenton (NJ) State House in "day jobs" as award-winning journalist and innovative director of public relations for the New Jersey Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association.
He has time and again shown his devotion to USHWA, including a two-year stint as the organization's president and serving as the co-chair of the organization's annual awards dinner three times. His USHWA sobriquet of "able parliamentarian" indicates the main reason why USHWA president Jason Settlemoir selected him to head the USHWA by-laws revision committee, with John Pawlak of the USTA serving as his co-chair.
Meeting face-to-face and by e-mail and phone frequently over the last two years, the committee has thoroughly scanned the current by-laws for "housekeeping" language cleanups, made sure that commonly-accepted practices would be codified, and -- its biggest challenge of all -- insuring that the lifeblood of money in the treasury of USHWA, a not-for-profit organization, is being used to maximum effect, for the good of harness racing and also the organization.
Settlemoir, an ex-officio member of the by-laws revision committee, said, "Leon Zimmerman has over the years made very important contributions to the welfare of USHWA, and with his knowledge of legal proceedings and his being the ‘able parliamentarian,' I thought he would do a fine job in heading this all-important by-laws recision Committee -- and I did handicap that ‘race' correctly, based on my work with the group and what I've seen."
Zimmerman, who has won the top honor given by the Harness Publicists Association (now the Standardbred Media and Marketing Association), the Allen J. Finkelson Golden Pen Award for lifetime accomplishments in harness racing publicity, also has the Harness Horsemen's International Media Award on his shelf. He is only the third USHWAn to win the Member of the Year honor two times (he previously was feted in 1998); ironically, all three of the "double USHWAns" earned their honors while working in New Jersey -- Steve Wolf (who has since transplanted to Florida), Moira Fanning, and now Leon.
Zimmerman will receive his award at the Dan Patch Awards dinner, honoring Stan Bergstein, to be held Sunday, February 12, at the DoubleTree Hilton at Orlando (FL) SeaWorld.
For tickets to attend the banquet, contact Steve Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org; to take a congratulatory ad in the dinner journal, for Zimmerman, in appreciation of Bergstein, or to honor any other award winners, contact Kim Rinker at email@example.com. Reservations at the DoubleTree can be made by calling 800.327.0363; mentioning "USHWA" or "DPA" should get you a discounted rate.
by Gerry Connors, for the United States Harness Writers Association