The Transylvania Times -


Zimmerman Leaving The Heart Of Brevard


At the end of the month, Madrid Zimmerman will step down from the Heart of Brevard. (Times photo Michael Rogers

Madrid Zimmerman, executive director of the Heart of Brevard, will leave her position at the end of the month.

“Because of my father’s increasing health issues, this is the time that I can help him the best by living nearby," Zimmerman said.

Last year, Zimmerman made frequent trips to California to assist her dad and has already visited California twice this year.

It was during a recent visit while attending a meeting at the Long Beach Rotary Club that she discovered they were looking for an administrator.

Zimmerman, who is a member of the Pisgah Forest Rotary Club, was offered the job and will begin her new position in Long Beach in early June.

While Zimmerman actually grew up in Long Beach, she left after high school.

“I’ve spent more time in Western North Carolina than in California,” she said. “Brevard has become my home.”

During her first term as Heart of Brevard executive director (1997-2002), she set the longest tenure for that position. She came back in 2006 and has happily beaten her own record.

The average tenure for directors of the nationwide Main Street USA program is three years.

“I’ve been fortunate to work with so many individuals and organizations who are dedicated to improving the overall welfare of Brevard and Transylvania County,” she said. “It’s been easy to want to make my home here when there are many people who genuinely care about each other.”

The Heart of Brevard (HOB) board, meanwhile, will be searching for an interim executive director.

“While we need to expedite the process in hopes that the interim can spend a little time with Madrid before she leaves Brevard, it is important that we find a professional that can carry forward the duties and responsibilities, and not just be a place holder,” said board president Kim Provost.

Mayor Jimmy Harris has often noted how important the downtown business district is to the county’s economy.

“Economic partners are engaging in very serious conversations about pursuing an overall community development strategy that allows each of us to contribute our strengths so that we can work together toward common goals,” he said. “The Heart of Brevard needs to have a continued voice in these discussions.”

City Manager Joe Moore said that it’s “rare to find the combination of objectivity with passion about the community.”

“But this is the type of professional we’re seeking, even as an interim director,” he said.

Street festivals and special events are important components of the Main Street USA program.

But time and energy are also spent on nurturing alliances between economic partners, and creating a downtown that has meaning for its county residents.

“Thousands of visitors come every year and return to our community because they value our hometown feeling and beautiful natural resources,” said Jeremy Owen, the HOB board vice-president. “But it’s even more important that people who live here feel connected — and the downtown can be that place that provides a common connection.”

Resumés may be submitted to the Heart of Brevard office at 175 East Main St. or through by Friday, May 11, at noon. Include professional and personal references.


Among Zimmerman’s favorite memories while working with the Heart of Brevard was the creation of the Squirrel Box Derby, which will make is annual appearance during the upcoming White Squirrel Festival on May 26 and 27.

The Heart of Brevard is the main organizer of the festival.

Zimmerman said the French Broad Place owners initially suggested the soap box derby event.

“I decided the White Squirrel Festival would be the perfect time to add this downhill gravity race,” she said. “Even after five years, it’s been a continual joy of watching grandfathers, fathers, husbands and sons suddenly have a reason to come to a street festival.

“The intergenerational experience of males sharing with females hours in the garage all winter long, designing and building, scheming together is truly inspirational. And who can deny the incredible elation on the faces of the drivers who complete their runs down Jailhouse Hill? The derby demonstrates the passage of great engineering with mountain daring to our younger generation.”

On many projects, Zimmerman has worked with Libby Freeman, the Brevard/Transylvania Chamber executive director.

“Madrid is a joy to work with and the consummate professional,” Freeman said. “Whatever the Chamber of Commerce or the Tourism Development Authority is involved in, Madrid is always ready to jump right in and move things forward.

“Her experience with the Heart of Brevard, the city council and the city administration have always made her the perfect person to go to when questions arose.

“She is not only a close business associate, but a dear friend and one that I will miss terribly. I wish the best for Madrid and for her family.”

Harris said Zimmerman has been a strong advocate for the Heart of Brevard and its mission of improving the downtown economy.

“Although the Heart of Brevard is largely made up and supported by the financial contributions of its merchant members through the self-creation of a municipal tax district, it is clear that Madrid ‘is its heart,’” he said. “Her kind mannerisms, infectious charisma and positive demeanor is how she will be remembered most. I think she is one of the best friends that the Heart of Brevard has had and her loyalty and dedication will be missed.”

Zimmerman is also positive about the future of the downtown and the rest of the city.

“While our community has been in transition over the past decade, the addition of Oskar Blues will be transformative,” she said. “Their arrival signifies the convergence of manufacturing, music and the outdoors.

“Our downtown restaurants have already begun adding more regular music entertainment. Combined with monthly gallery walks and other special events, the downtown hosts evening activities that are safe, family-oriented, and culturally-enriching.”

She believes the community will become more attractive to families and young entrepreneurs.

“They will be drawn here to live the ‘dream of a place,’” she said. “Brevard and Transylvania County will be seen as a place where you can combine high technology with nurturing community values.”

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