Turns out no need for the best American made mower for my sister in law. She decided what was best for her and her 3/4 acre lot is to have someone else do it. Her sister's preacher is contracting to do a few yards and agreed to do the mowing and weed eating / trimming for her for 40 dollars each week to 10 days.
I balked at the idea but after considering cash outlay for a new mower and she needed a weed eater and her frustration with dealing with all things mechanical this is the best option by far for her.
If shopping for a ZTR's in the 12k price range I'd suggest considering Scag, Kubota and Gravely. I was in the market a few years ago and bought the Scag Cheetah. 27hp Kawasaki engine. Awesome machine all the way around.
I went Saturday. Spent a lot of time looking at Bob Cat. A lot of nice features and I like the 6 year warranty. I'm still trying to decide if being carbureted is a plus or minus...right now I'm treating it as a minus. Only suspension is on the seat, nothing on the frame. And it has a Transaxle (trying to figure out exactly what that is). The Spartan has a 16cc Integrated pump/wheel motor layout. Vs. the whole pump and wheel motor concept. Not sure which is the best of the two or if Bob Cat (and thus the dealer) or putting their own spin on it. Nice thing, they have a couple Bob Cat 6000MX w/ a 61" deck. I could get for $8200. About $2600 less than the Spartan. Now if I want a Bob Cat that is comparative in power and deck size to the Spartan, it is within $200 +/-, so a non-factor in my opinion.
Went to a different dealer. Unfortunately they were closed, so I didn't get any pricing. They had a couple Gravely's, a Grasshopper, and a several Kubota's. Wasn't overly impressed with the Gravely commercial one. Grasshopper looks nice, but probably out of my budget. No pricing on the Kubotas.
There is another place locally that has a few different brands including Ferris I might go look at. Then another place is now selling Simplicity.