April 6, 2020
Angel Zimmerman is managing partner at Zimmerman & Zimmerman, P.A. who was appointed to serve on the Topeka Downtown Business Improvement District Advisory Board through the Appointments Project.
What does the Topeka Downtown Business Improvement Advisory Board do?
The purpose of the board is to monitor and oversee services provided pursuant to the business improvement district act. We survey downtown residents and businesses, advise on the district assessments, review growth opportunities and purchase items that would be beneficial for the district.
What inspired you to apply to serve on a civic board or commission?
I went to an Appointments Project presentation given by the Women’s Foundation at the Kansas Women Attorney Association’s annual conference. I was introduced to Women’s Foundation Vice President Kendall Seal and then their President & CEO Wendy Doyle and they thought I would be able to use my connections to help other women.
When I received a call from the board asking if I would consider serving, I decided that this was a great opportunity to not only be an advocate but also serve in a leadership capacity myself. I was able to be Topeka’s first Appointments Project appointee.
Is there anything that’s surprised you? Or a challenge you didn’t anticipate?
I was surprised that an interview with the Mayor was not hard and that regular people, like me, can serve. There are challenges of not knowing the history of a board but because it is government I think it is actually easier to learn the organizational history than it is for some private and non-profit organizations.
What’s the current gender makeup of your board? How does having (or lacking) diversity impact the effectiveness of the board?
While there are still meetings where I am the only female at times, it is a very inclusive board and all members’ voices are heard. I own a downtown business and also a downtown building, so I have a personal stake and a familiarity with the issues we address.
The board is a good mix of small business owners, and the large corporations are very aware of not overburdening small business and wanting to encourage smaller enterprises. This was an easier first board to be on because I was a known quantity to everyone and I also knew several board members.
Is there a particular decision, moment, or policy that has been noteworthy during your time?
One of the policies we advocated for was specifically complimented in a City Council meeting, which was exciting to see.
It was also rewarding to be able to raise concerns about unintended consequences and help shape the decision we ultimately made.
It is nice to have moments that you know it was your voice that impacted a policy direction and the time you gave up made a difference in your community.
What advice do you have for other women considering serving on a board or commission?
A great quote I love to share is “Go and Do, Don’t Sit and Stew.” You are needed, so please, please, please volunteer.
Is there anything you wish you’d known going in?
I do wish I knew Robert’s rules more than I do. Not for this board but I think if I would be more comfortable with those it would be easier to volunteer more places.
What do you see as some of the barriers that cause women to be underrepresented in these roles?
Thinking that these are all highly specialized boards that require specific degrees and expertise or thinking a board thinks we have expertise when we don’t. I also think women like to serve where we are needed – and use our time wisely – so it’s important to have programs like the Appointments Project that proactively ask women to serve.