A recommendation will be made Wednesday night to narrow the field of 15 candidates for one seat on the Lehigh County commissioners, but a winner won’t be appointed until July 9.
On Tuesday night, six county commissioners conducted short face-to-face interviews with 14 of the 15 candidates, in a meeting lasting more than three hours.
The three members of the commissioners’ intergovernmental & appointments committee are giving themselves less than 24 hours from the time those interviews ended to make a recommendation to the rest of the commissioners.
That committee will meet around 6:50 p.m. Wednesday to make a recommendation.
It intends to pass that recommendation on to the full board during the regular commissioners meeting at 7:30 p.m.
“Our recommendation could be that we recommend no candidates, one candidate, or any number of candidates -- up to all the candidates,” said Commissioner Brad Osborne, who chairs that appointment committee. “That’s something we’ll be discussing in committee.”
Commissioners Geoff Brace and Vic Mazziotti serve with Osborne on that committee.
The person ultimately appointed will serve though December 2015, completing the four-year term of Commissioner Scott Ott, a Republican who resigned last month.
Originally, 16 Republicans applied for Ott’s seat. But one of them, former county commissioner Andy Roman of Whitehall Township, withdrew.
Lynn Donches of Emmaus, another candidate still in the running, was unable to attend Tuesday’s night’s interviews.
Two of the eight county commissioners – Thomas Creighton and Percy Dougherty --- also could not attend the interviews.
And both of those men will be absent at Wednesday night’s commissioners meeting, which is why a decision won’t be made until the July 9 meeting.
It will take five votes to appoint a candidate. Without Creighton and Dougherty, only six commissioners will be at Wednesday’s meeting.
The task facing commissioners did not seem any easier after the 14 interviews.
While the amount of prior political experience varied significantly among the candidates, none of the 14 seemed to stumble badly.
But the interviews were just one part of a tough puzzle commissioners must put together to pick a ninth member.
The candidates also submitted resumes and provided written answers to questionnaires sent to them. And all had been encouraged to meet one-on-one with commissioners.
While all the candidates are Republicans, political factors also may come into play.
Who do the commissioners already know, who do they like and who don’t they like?
Will they decide to go with someone who has prior experience, either as a county commissioner or in another local elected position? Or will they prefer fresh blood?
Commissioners might push for candidates with whom they feel the most politically attuned.
Some may favor an appointee whose political views are similar to Ott’s, to retain a conservative force on the board.
They might harbor resentment toward candidate Dean Browning, for example, because he ran against Ott in the Republican primary for county executive last year.
There could even be lingering animosity toward former Lower Macungie commissioners Ron Eichenberg and Roger C. Reis, because they supported a tax increment financing plan for the Hamilton Crossings shopping center in their township – a plan rejected by most county commissioners in 2013.
Reis, Browning and candidate James Kozuch all are former county commissioners, although Kozuch said he only served for 10 months.