John J. Zimmermann entered the practice of local government law more than 40 years ago. His distinguished career has included serving as general counsel to numerous local government organizations in Northern Illinois, founding and managing a law partnership that became a multi-generational leader in the practice of Illinois municipal law, and playing a key role in the creation of innovative legislation with impact on communities the length and breadth of Illinois.
Mr. Zimmermann has been lead counsel in some of the most significant economic development projects and annexation efforts in Illinois history, and has led and is a charter member of major professional associations dedicated to the practice of municipal law, co-founding one of them.
Having served twice as the Acting Village Manager for Mount Prospect, Illinois, Mr. Zimmermann brings another valuable aspect to the practice of municipal law. He has a unique “in their shoes” understanding and appreciation of the problems managers and administrators encounter on a day-to-day basis. He knows firsthand that the responsibilities of a municipal counsel require handling numerous sensitive situations, often on short notice and with minimal administrative help.
Although he has had a general practice of law throughout his career, his local government practice has included serving the following major clients as chief legal officer: City of Highland Park; Village of Mettawa; Village of Mount Prospect, where he also served twice as Acting Village Manager (while retaining and performing the duties of his Office as Village Attorney) for a total of 18 months; Mount Prospect Public Library; Village of Schiller Park and City of Wood Dale.
Mr. Zimmermann has represented the cities of Highland Park and Wood Dale for more than 20 years each, the Village of Mettawa for more than 30 years, and has counseled the Villages of Mount Prospect and Schiller Park for more than a decade each. On all of these assignments, either as in-house or outside counsel, Mr. Zimmermann has had responsibility for his clients’ administrative and transactional legal matters as well as their litigation.
These specific areas of focus and accomplishments best illustrate Mr. Zimmermann’s extensive capabilities:
- Paramedic Program in Illinois: While working with Mount Prospect, drafted the enabling legislation that created the pilot program for this state-wide service.
- “Cop in the Box” Law: On behalf of Wood Dale, drafted the legislation permitting electronic traffic enforcement throughout the state and helping promote safety at railroad grade crossings. This law later became the model for photo enforcement of traffic regulations.
- Adult Use Regulations: While Corporation Counsel for Schiller Park, drafted the implementing ordinance for one of the area’s first adult use zoning regulations, which has since survived multiple First Amendment challenges.
- Regional Plan Commissions: In the late 1990s, drafted several significant state statutes affecting municipal law, including this legislation that permitted the cities of Highwood and Highland Park to form a commission to oversee the development of Fort Sheridan, an historic federal reservation.
The Town of Fort Sheridan, Highland Park/Highwood: Served as lead counsel for Highland Park on the annexation and intergovernmental agreements facilitating this project - 133-acre mixed use residential, retail, recreational annexation/redevelopment - one of the largest economic redevelopments of a surplus military base in U.S. history.
Downtown Streetscape, Highland Park: Lead attorney for this massive project that in the 1980s revitalized an ailing downtown, eliminating boarded-up buildings and attracting new businesses and patrons, making the area a destination that thrives today.
Port Clinton Square, Highland Park: Lead counsel for the city in its acquisition and development of this square block as a key part of the Downtown Streetscape renewal program.
Renaissance Place/Sax Fifth Avenue, Highland Park: Lead counsel for Highland Park in the city’s acquisition and development of this square block in western downtown, along Green Bay Road.
Woodland Falls, Mettawa: Negotiated and drafted an agreement annexing some 85 acres adjacent to Interstate 94 to this then all-residential Village, which permitted the development of two hotels, a large center for sales of computers and computer products, and one of the largest office buildings between Chicago and the Canadian border; thereby assuring the Village’s economic viability for the future.
Tax Rebate Program, Mettawa: Architect of this program, for distribution of a potion of the revenue streaming from the above development, which has returned as much as $480,000 to the residents annually.
Old Orchard Country Club, Mount Prospect: Lead counsel in this commercial and residential development, which eliminated nine of 27 golf holes but allowed the historic 18-hole course to flourish to this day.
Huntington Commons, Mount Prospect: Responsible for several significant annexations of territory to the Village, notably, this commercial/residential development of several hundred acres south of Golf Road, under an annexation agreement Mr. Zimmermann crafted.
Forest River, Mount Prospect: In conjunction with the residents who lived in this unincorporated hamlet, “quarter-backed” this annexation of over 700 developed acres to Mount Prospect, which was at that time the largest annexation of new residents (adding 10,200 people to the population) in the history of Illinois.
Klehm Woods, South Barrington: Successfully negotiated the settlement of litigation, enabling this mixed use residential commercial development to come to fruition.
Hamilton Partners Industrial Park, Wood Dale: Crafted the agreement enabling the development of 130-plus acres located on the north and south sides of the Thorndale Road artery.
St. Aubin’s Nursery Development, Wood Dale: Crafted numerous annexation agreements, bringing hundreds of acres of industrial parks into the corporate limits of the city as well as this residential development of several hundred acres of the abandoned nursery.
Retail and Other Incentive Agreements, several municipalities: As lead counsel, created and designed multiple special service areas, and tax increment financing and special business districts on behalf of numerous cities and villages.
Mr. Zimmermann joined Tressler LLP in March 2012 when Raysa & Zimmermann, LLC merged with Tressler.
After serving as Mount Prospect’s “in-house” Village Attorney from 1967, in 1979 he co-founded Bradtke & Zimmermann, which merged with Raysa & Skelton in 2001, becoming Raysa & Zimmermann, a leader in the practice of Illinois local government law.
In February 2003, he received the “Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievement," bestowed by the Illinois Local Government Lawyer's Association (formerly, the Illinois Institute for Local Government Law), and in September 2011, he was presented with the International Municipal Lawyers Association’s “Marvin J. Glink Private Practice Local Government Attorney Award.” In addition to the traditional qualities of excellence in the practice of law, the latter award recognizes a practitioner who has provided outstanding service to the public, and who possesses an exemplary reputation in the legal community, the highest of ethical standards, and who is devoted to mentoring young lawyers and educating lawyers in local government law.
As another testament of his success, Mr. Zimmermann has been named an Illinois Super Lawyer by Illinois Super Lawyers magazine in the area of Government / Cities / Municipalities each year from 2007 through 2012.
PUBLICATIONS & PRESENTATIONS
Mr. Zimmermann has regularly been called upon to testify before the Illinois General Assembly on legislation affecting local government.
In addition, he frequently speaks on municipal law topics, having lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (“IICLE”), the Illinois Municipal League, the Illinois Institute for Local Government Law, the Illinois State Bar, Lake County Bar and International Municipal Lawyers Associations. He is the author of many articles and other works on local government and land development issues appearing in legal journals.
His IICLE publications include:
Chapter 1, Organization, Governmental Forms and Dissolution, “Illinois Municipal Law: Organization, Operation and Governance, 2012 Edition,” published by Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education.
Chapter 15, Land Use Agreements in “Illinois Land Use Law, 2010 Edition,” and supp. 2013, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education.
Additional publications appearing in legal journals include, but are not limited to:
“Whether Resolutions and Motions are Law”, published in 10 MUNICIPAL LAWYER 43 (1969).
“Special Service Areas,” appearing as Chapter 12 in Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education edition of Special Districts (1982) and the 1985 Supplement.
“Planned Unit Developments -- The Last Twenty Years in Retrospect,” published in Local Government Law, a publication of the Illinois State Bar Association, 1990.
“The Effect of Voting “Abstain,” “Pass,” or “Present,” published in ILGL: NEWSLETTER, April, 1995.
“How to Levy Taxes,” published by the Illinois Municipal League in 1985, revised 1987, 1994, 2002.
“Family Medical Leave ― Updated,” published in ILGL: NEWSLETTER, March, 2009.
“Outsourcing Government Functions: A Home Rule Unit’s Authority to Contract with a Private Security Firm for Law Enforcement Services,” published in ILGL: NEWSLETTER, June, 2011.
Mr. Zimmermann and his wife, Alice, a retired Chicago Public School teacher, live in Park Ridge, where they raised five children and now entertain their 15 grandchildren.