All 15 people who want to be the next Lehigh County commissioner will be considered when the eight commissioners meet on July 9.
The commissioners first will have to vote to formally accept a recommendation to consider all 15, which was formulated Wednesday night by their intergovernmental and appointments committee.
“We have 15 qualified candidates I would like to offer to the full board so that we can make a choice,” said Commissioner Brad Osborne, who chairs the committee.
“No matter what path we take, there’s only going to be one candidate who’s successful.”
But this way, he added: “Every candidate has an equal chance.”
Commissioner Geoff Brace, who serves on the appointments committee, was skeptical a meaningful recommendation to narrow the field could be made within only 24 hours of the committee conducting face-to-face interviews with all but one of those 15 candidates on Tuesday night.
Brace suggested the committee “err on the side of caution” and recommend all 15 candidates for consideration by the full board of commissioners.
The committee could have recommended one candidate, several candidates or none.
“I can’t think of a good way to narrow down this group,” said Commissioner Vic Mazziotti, who also serves on the committee. “I was incredibly impressed with the people we have here. I was incredibly impressed with their resumes and their responses.
“We’ve been very, very fortunate to have so many good people apply.”
Mazziotti said narrowing the field to six or eight candidates would be the best the committee could do.
“If we do that, will we accomplish any more than recommending the entire group to the full board?” he asked.
Osborne said he felt better recommending everyone, because the committee did not have a criteria “we could apply that would be fair to the candidates, to this board and to the public that is watching this process.”
Osborne said he hopes the candidates, public and his fellow commissioners feel it has been a fair and open process.
Brace, Mazziotti and Osborne all agreed to recommend all 15 to the full board of commissioners on July 9.
If the board does not accept that recommendation, commissioners can nominate any qualified individual, explained David Barilla, the commissioners’ clerk.
Asked if someone who is not among the 15 candidates could be nominated, Barilla said: “That’s never been done but, based on the way the language is written, it would appear so. It says ‘qualified candidates.’ It doesn’t say ‘applicants.’”
The clerk added that he has seen the full board go outside the committee’s recommendation in the past, but never saw someone nominated who had not applied.
How will the new commissioner be selected on Jan. 9?
When each of the eight current commissioners has his or her name called by Barilla, he or she will offer the name of their favorite candidate from among the 15.
If five of the eight commissioners offer the same name, that person will be appointed.
If each of the eight commissioners names a different candidate in the first go-round, the field of 15 will be narrowed to eight.
It’s a voting process that could go on for many rounds, until at least five commissioners name the same candidate.
If there is little progress, Chairwoman Lisa Scheller could declare an impasse and ask for nominations from her commissioner colleagues.
If commissioners fail to select a person by July 14, an appointment will be made by Lehigh County Court. July 9 is their last scheduled meeting before that deadline.