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A five-member advisory panel will recommend a candidate to fill an empty Princeton Public Utilities Commission position after completing a series of interviews on Wednesday, July 24.

City leaders approved several meeting agenda revisions at their July 11 meeting to set up the panel, which will consist of Mayor Brad Schumacher, Councilor Jack Edmonds, residents Andrea Gerrard, Lee Steinbrecher, and Princeton School Superintendent Ben Barton.

The panel will interview Public Utilities Commission applicants Wednesday, July 24, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, City Clerk Shawna Jenkins told the Union-Times. The interviews will be open to the public.

If Barton cannot attend candidate interviews between now and the council’s July 25 meeting, a city business owner would be selected by Community Development Specialist Stephanie Hillesheim.

Five residents have applied for the open position on the Princeton Public Utilities Commission.

Paul Whitcomb, Richard Schwartz, Maureen Gould, Jon George, and Greg Hanson have applied.

The deadline for submitting an application was Monday, July 8.

Later this coming week, Princeton city leaders will select a replacement for Commissioner Henry “Hank” Findell, who served on the PUC from April 2005 to October 2010 and in his most recent capacity since December 2013.

Council members will make their decision based on input from the advisory panel that meets Wednesday.

Findell submitted his letter of resignation that was sent via mail to the Princeton City Council on May 31.

The term for the open position ends Dec. 31, 2019.

Councilor Jules Zimmer suggested tabling action on the PUC position because the council was short one member last week.

Councilor Jenny Gerold was not in attendance at the July 11 meeting.

“We are short one counselor, and my feeling is that the full council should be present to make this decision,” Zimmer said. “I’ve been on the council almost seven years, and I’ve never seen more interest in a commission or a board than this. We have five good applicants, and my suggestion would be to have a panel to interview the five candidates for our July 25 meeting, and make a recommendation to the council.”

Zimmer suggested a panel complete the interview process.

“I think that’s the way we should proceed,” Zimmer said. Other council members agreed, but Schumacher asked for clarification on the dates.

“Are you suggesting that we have those interviews prior to the July 25 meeting or a prior day before that meeting?” Schumacher asked.

Zimmer said interviews should be completed prior to the day of July 25.

“[Panel members] should have a recommendation to bring before the council, and if the person who is recommended is approved, that person will become the new PUC commissioner,” Zimmer said.

Edmonds concurred with Zimmer’s motion. “My time as council person is only two-and-half-years, but I’ve been around the local political scene almost 15 years, and I’ve never seen a turnout of such qualified candidates,” Edmonds said. “We’ll have a tough decision but having a more through vetting of candidates is important. I’d rather do it right.”

Council members voted 4-0 on Zimmer’s motion to create the PUC candidate advisory committee and to move the commissioner selection date to Thursday, July 25.

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