Morgan Zimmerman didn’t grow up in Morrilton, but nobody could tell it based on her enthusiasm for the city.
“It’s a little bit bigger than Altus, where I grew up, and closer to bigger things,” she said. “I kind of embraced it as my home, and people welcomed me with open arms.”
If anyone needs proof, the 33-year-old was named Morrilton Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 5 at its 90th annual banquet.
“I was overwhelmed, definitely,” Zimmerman said. “I was very humbled by it, honestly, because I enjoy the work in the community so much. I enjoy it, and it’s fun for me connecting people and trying to grow our community for the better. It’s a fun time to be part of that movement because there’s so much happening in Morrilton right now.”
For 6 1/2 years, Zimmerman’s name was synonymous with the development office at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton.
About two months ago, she left UACCM for a newly created position at Crow Construction and Paving of Morrilton.
“Business development and marketing are my job description. I do a little bit of everything. It’s a position they added; they’re growing really quickly,” she said.
“Whenever this opportunity at Crow presented itself, it was bittersweet because I really loved the people I worked with [at UACCM], but it was a good professional opportunity for me,” Zimmerman said.
She had her hand in some major projects at UACCM.
“Our biggest undertaking, of course, was the Workforce Training Center,” Zimmerman said. “The Give Meaning campaign raised almost $3 million. We were just overwhelmed with the response.”
The $13 million center is almost completed.
“It was a labor of love the whole time I was there. I think that would have to be the highlight,” Zimmerman said.
“A lot of other good things came out of that. As we set up the foundation to take large gifts, we formed a partnership with the U of A Foundation. We took advantage of their power to make our dollars go further, and we established a private scholarship luncheon. … That’s an annual thing we do now,” she said, using the word “we” out of habit.
Zimmerman earned her degree in public relations and journalism at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville. That’s where she met Paul, her husband, who majored in electrical engineering. His hometown is Morrilton, and he is a project engineer for Koontz Electric Co. in Morrilton.
“After college, I lived in Colorado for a little while — a little adventure, I guess. I wanted to see what it would be like to live away from home,” Zimmerman said.
Then she moved to Fayetteville until she landed a job at the Department of Rural Services in Little Rock. She had interned there in college and was in charge of public relations for two annual conferences for the department, which is now part of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
“I loved working there; it was a really fun place to work,” she said. “It was a small agency, and I got to work very closely with all the rural towns in Arkansas, 3,000 [population] or less.” She helped administer grants.
“I got to work so closely with small towns to help them build up their communities. Development has really always been my area,” she said.
Zimmerman, who married in 2009, was living in Morrilton and driving to work in Little Rock. She wanted a job closer to home and was hired to do consulting for the Morrilton Area Chamber of Commerce, where she made the connection that led to the UACCM position.
Working in Morrilton gave her more time to volunteer in the community. She joined the Main Street Board of Directors last year, is treasurer of the Chamber of Commerce board and is in her eighth year as a Century League member.
Sarah Croswell, executive director of Main Street Morrilton, said she was happy when she saw that Zimmerman was chosen as Citizen of the Year.
“I’m a big Morgan fan; I was so pleased when I saw that,” Croswell said. “She has such a heart for Morrilton. Even though she’s not a native here, she’s like one of our favorite adopted daughters.
“I would sum her up by calling her a go-getter. She has just come in and said, ‘What can I do to help? Put me to work.’ And she has just run with it. She has brilliant ideas, and she’s willing to try something.”
Croswell said Zimmerman was the “main driver” behind First Thursday events, “and those have been really successful.” The first Thursday of each month, businesses and merchants stay open late to catch commuters who can’t make it back to town by 5, Croswell said. Special events and promotions are offered, too.
Croswell said Zimmerman has taken over Main Street Morrilton’s social-media presence and has beefed those up and started a members-only Facebook-page group for downtown merchants and businesses.
Jerry Smith, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said Zimmerman spearheaded the first Munchin’ on Main Street festival held last year.
Zimmerman said Morrilton had wanted to create a unique festival for some time.
“A gentleman trying to do a food-truck race contacted us,” she said. “Our chamber and our Uncommon Communities committee and Main Street Morrilton board came together last year and decided we were going to seize the opportunity, if these food trucks were going to come to town, and create a festival out of it.
“In the last minute, the food-truck race part of it kind of fell through. Fortunately, we have a lot of good food trucks in our area.”
Zimmerman said seven local food trucks participated, and the event included live music, vendors and a beer garden.
“We were so pleased. We estimated 1,000 to 1,500 attended, and we literally planned it in six weeks. It was awesome the way it came together,” she said.
The second Munchin’ on Main Street, hosted by Main Street Morrilton, is scheduled for March 24, and Zimmerman is in the thick of planning it.
“We’re going to grow it this year,” she said, adding that the free-admission festival will start earlier in the day, and the plan is to expand everything — the number of food trucks, the live music, arts and crafts vendors, and the kids section.
“The event itself is free, and we want to keep it that way,” she said. “Our downtown businesses expand their hours to take advantage, so it gets people downtown shopping. I want to continue to work to take advantage of this momentum we have going right now.”
Morrilton is the perfect place to be, Zimmerman said.
“My husband’s family is here, not too far from my family,” she said. Zimmerman and her husband have a 2-year-old daughter, Margo.
“It’s a great place to live, and I love living here,”
Zimmerman said. “I’m involved, and I’m really pretty passionate about Morrilton. I have a daughter now, and I’m interested in making it a place she’ll want to live.”
The little girl will have her mother’s example to follow.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.