ARLINGTON, Va.-How many people with a master’s degree in political science from George Washington University can say they have starred in a beer commercial and lectured to journalists and journalism professors on U.S. lobbying tactics? Been an elevator escort in the same year as he held the position of U.S. Embassy team coordinator of a program for a First Lady? Not many. But these are the life and times of NAFCU Communications Manager John Zimmerman. While working at NCUA as a congressional liaison for five years, Zimmerman met Jane. At the time, Jane was learning Arabic for her job with the State Department, which would require her to travel overseas to complete her language training. Zimmerman thought this the perfect situation for a guy: dating an attractive woman who would be moving overseas shortly. He said there was one snag though; he did not plan on falling in love. Zimmerman married Jane the day after Independence Day in 1997. The Zimmermans then traveled to Tunisia in 1998, where Jane was posted. Zimmerman gave up his job at NCUA to become what he describes as a “kept man.” He jests, “It was a hard thing to give up my job and hopscotch across the Mediterranean.” He said that he was often the only husband at parties of the diplomats’ spouses. When traveling, Zimmerman recalls, without fail border guards would tell him, “In our country, it’s the men who work.” The remarks and parties did not bother him though. “It was no problem for me because I saw it as a big adventure.It was such a tremendous experience that I wouldn’t give it up for anything,” Zimmerman said. But Zimmerman was not simply lollygagging about the globe on the coattails of his wife. While in Tunisia, Zimmerman lectured national press, journalism professors, and graduate students on lobbying in the context of U.S. Government domestic and foreign policy decision-making through a two-member panel sponsored by the U.S. Information Service. On the flip side, while in Tunisia, Zimmerman served as a movie extra in some Italian and British productions, as well as starring in a Tunisian beer commercial. Again, when the Zimmermans traveled to Israel for Jane’s work, Zimmerman rejoined the professional world as a U.S. Embassy team coordinator for a one-hour program on childhood development to be given by the then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. The event received front-page coverage in the English edition of an Israeli newspaper. Zimmerman was also serving as an elevator escort at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. Once again, he felt out of place because the other two escorts were teenagers, while he was in his late 30s. Zimmerman admitted though that he did miss working on a regular basis. He said that he did not realize before how much work is a measure of self-esteem and how much he would miss the interaction. By August 1999, the Zimmermans returned to the U.S. where Zimmerman was back in his element, working full-time for NAFCU as communications manager. He worked two three-month contracts before accepting a permanent position at the credit union trade association. Somewhere around the beginning of the millennium, the Zimmermans learned that they were expecting. Their son, Jack, was born October 2. “A child makes you appreciate how little control you have over life,” he remarked. This rendezvous with NAFCU was not Zimmerman’s first encounter with the trade association. From 1989 to 1992, he held the director of legislative affairs position at NAFCU, currently filled by Charlie Frohman. Prior to that he also served as staff assistant to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs (now, Financial Services). But, in his present position with NAFCU, Zimmerman is really enjoying himself. He described most reporters as young, inquisitive, skeptical, and “having a fairly warped sense of humor,” so he can easily get along with them. He explained that he principally deals with the credit union trade press, but also contacts the American Banker or BNA’s Banking Report on a fairly regular basis. He added that around the time of NAFCU’s Congressional Caucus he calls every reporter in the world. Occasionally, reporters also seek NAFCU out. The media’s rush for information, particularly when their editors are breathing down their necks, sometimes becomes troublesome for Zimmerman. He noted around the middle of the week, he has two or three reporters all demanding different information ASAP. “Reporters, by definition, are impatient, particularly on deadline,” he said. One of Zimmerman’s pet peeves about reporters is when they call more than one person in the organization, which leads to duplication and needless expending of resources. “If the reporters are busy, then I’m going to be busy,” he said. Working with staff in the other departments that are willing to talk to the press is helpful, however, Zimmerman said. Some, he said, on occasion ask, “Is this really part of my job?” at the beginning. He also emphasizes to NAFCU staffers that they do not have to feel obligated to answer every question a reporter asks. Additionally, working for a smaller organization, Zimmerman is able to make an impact. “A lot of our policy develops through e-mail ricochet,” he explained, between President and CEO Fred Becker and the rest of the staff. Though the board ultimately approves all organization policy, Zimmerman feels he benefits the policy through his position and experience in the industry. Besides, being the communications manager for NAFCU sure beats tinting lenses for an optometrist, which Zimmerman actually did during graduate school. [email protected]

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