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River Falls entrepreneur seeks Knudson's Assembly seat

Shannon Zimmerman is the founder of Sajan Inc., a NASDAQ-traded company located in River Falls. He has announced his candidacy for the District 30 Wisconsin Assembly seat currently occupied by Dean Knudson, who isn't seeking re-election.

Shannon Zimmerman has announced his intent to run for state Assembly District 30 as a Republican this fall. He joins Hudson insurance agent Paul Berning, another Republican, as candidates to succeed Dean Knudson, R-Hudson, who said last month he won’t seeking re-election.

Zimmerman made his candidacy announcement official on Feb. 13 during the St. Croix County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course.

Zimmerman, 43, said he was approached by area and state Republican officials to run for the open state Assembly seat.

His entry into the race this fall will mean a Republican primary in August. No Democrats have announced at this point. The seat will be filled in the November election.

Since Zimmerman now lives in the town of Clifton -- just outside Assembly District 30 boundaries -- he said that if elected he would change his “primary residence” to one of several properties he owns in the city of River Falls – the city is within District 30.

Zimmerman and his wife Angel started their first River Falls business, Sajan, Inc., from their home in 1997. They moved to the River Falls area from Eau Claire County.

Slowly and steadily they grew Sajan into one of the largest professional employers in the St Croix Valley.

A NASDAQ-traded company today, Sajan, in the River Falls corporate park, thrives with offices in five countries and employs over 120 people locally. The company received the 2011 St Croix Economic Development Corporation’s Large Business of the Year award.

Zimmerman said he’s got an “exceptional staff” at Sajan and, after talking to Knudson and state Sen. Sheila Hardorf (R-River Falls) and then “soul searching,” believes he could balance the duties of state lawmaker and corporate executive.

Zimmerman said community service through politics was the motivation behind him getting into the race for public office.

“We live in an exceptional part of Wisconsin,” Zimmerman said. “We have all the ingredients to advance and sustain a high quality of life for ourselves and our kids.”

The Zimmermans have two adult sons and three grandchildren. Zimmerman serves on the UW-River Falls Foundation Board; Chancellor’s Advisory Committee; and was the Executive-in-residence for the School of Business and Economics in 2013 at UWRF.

Drawing from extensive business experience, Zimmerman says his campaign focus will be economic growth, job creation, talent recruitment, tax reform, and developing innovative education and business partnerships that formally connect educational resources and private sector business and entrepreneurs.

In addition, he said he will work diligently to improve community amenities to make the area a more complete and robust place to work and live.

Zimmerman said there’s an opportunity to build upon the “great work” that Knudson’s done.

“I’ve had to be resourceful, creative, and committed in growing a business, all traits that if selected, will serve District 30 well,” Zimmerman said.

Shannon, Angel and their son Josh and his wife Mandy most recently opened a winery called Belle Vinez in the town of Clifton. Belle Vinez opened last year and drew over 7,000 guests.

“This is clearly an example of the types of community amenities that are in demand.” Zimmerman points out. “Jobs get created, tax dollars generated, and a small business dream is realized.”

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