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Forum to Be Held for Council Seat; Koontz Shows Interest in Position

Candace Braun

A new approach will be taken this year to fill mayor-elect Joseph O'Neill's Council seat in the Borough, as the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee will hold an open public meeting for all interested Borough residents.

Mr. O'Neill, who won the November election for Borough mayor, must resign his current seat on Council before taking his new position. The councilman's term expires on December 31, 2004. He was first elected into his position in November 2001.

Because of this, the Democratic Committee must find three candidates to present to the Council so that they may vote on a replacement. The public meeting on Sunday, December 14 will give the Committee the opportunity to look at interested candidates.

"We'd like to give the candidates an opportunity to speak and take questions," said Andrew Koontz, chairman of the Committee.

Mr. Koontz, a Borough resident for 11 years, said he is interested in becoming Mr. O'Neill's replacement on Council.

"We're heading into a new era, and an exciting time in Borough politics," he said. "I'd like to help shape the direction of the Council, at least for the next year."

The Borough resident works for CBS Television in New York as a video editor. He is a graduate of New York University's Film School, with a B.S.A. in film studies. He is married, with no children.

Mr. Koontz has been chairman of the Borough's Democratic Committee since 1997, and president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization for three years. He is also vice president of PALE ALES, a club for residents that brew their own lager.

Broadening Horizons

The Committee usually chooses three candidates they would like to see serve on Council that have been chosen privately, said Mr. O'Neill. This year, candidates will have the opportunity to express their interest in the position in a public environment.

"To my knowledge, this has never been done before," said Mr. O'Neill. After the public forum, the Committee will choose three candidates for consideration, and then Council will pick one candidate to fill Mr. O'Neill's unexpired term.

"Theoretically [candidates] can be of any political party," said Mr. Koontz. However, because it is the responsibility of the Democratic Committee to choose a replacement, most likely Democrats will be chosen as the three candidates, he said.

The Committee has 15 days after Mr. O'Neill's resignation to pick three candidates to fill his unexpired term. Mr. O'Neill's replacement must run in the next election if he or she would like to continue serving on Council.

An appointment for the seat will probably be made at one of Borough Council's three meetings in January. It could take place as early as the first Tuesday in January, said Borough Clerk Andrea Quinty.

Mr. O'Neill will be sworn in as mayor on January 4, when he will simultaneously resign his position as councilman. Although the mayor is able to vote on Council issues when there is a tie, Mr. O'Neill will not have the opportunity to vote on his replacement on Council. With only five members of Council voting, a tie-breaker will not be necessary.

The public forum will take place on December 14, at 7:30 p.m., in the Suzanne Patterson Senior Center behind Borough Hall.

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