Three Seek Vacant Council Seat

Matthew Hersh

Three candidates were recommended Monday night by the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC) for consideration to fill the vacant seat on Borough Council -- the second vacancy in just over a month.

The three, Barbara Trelstad of Westcott Road, Anne Neumann of Alexander Street, and Kevin Wilkes of MacLean Street, sought the recommendation of the Committee after a Council seat opened when Mildred Trotman, a Democrat, was appointed to the mayor's seat, which became vacant upon the October 21 death of Mayor Joseph O'Neill.

And while they were the only three candidates to show up Monday night, all three made strong arguments for their candidacies, said PDMC Chairman and Borough Council member Andrew Koontz.

Although Council has until December 8 to pick one of the three, it is slated to appoint one of them to a special one-year term at its November 29 session.

One candidate, Mr. Wilkes, will come before Council "highly recommended" by the PDMC. Asked why, Mr. Koontz would not elaborate.

"I'm just going to let the action they took speak for themselves. We felt that all three candidates were highly qualified and that they would serve well on Borough Council."

Throughout the PDMC deliberations, however, Mr. Koontz said that "it was clear that they were most impressed by Kevin Wilkes."

Twelve committee members were involved in deciding on the recommendations by way of a secret ballot, but Mr. Koontz declined to comment on the breakdown of that vote.

Ms. Neumann, who made an unsuccessful attempt for a place on Borough Council when Mr. O'Neill vacated his Council seat on being elected mayor in November 2003, cited senior and affordable housing as primary platforms. She also said that she would work as an advocate for Borough merchants.

Ms. Neumann has taught writing at the Arts Council of Princeton and the Princeton Adult School and has also served on Princeton Future's Community-Based Neighborhood Retail Initiative. The organizer of the All Hands Gallery, a cooperative gallery of local artists in Palmer Square that sells holiday gifts, she is also a member of the Regional Planning Board's Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB).

Mr. Wilkes, a principal architect with the Belle Meade-based Princeton Design Guild, entered the Borough political scene in 2004 as a primary organizer of the Princeton Writers Block garden that exhibited garden structures ("follies") designed by local architects inspired by the works of local authors. It was that project, he said, that sparked his interest in municipal politics.

Mr. Wilkes was then asked by Princeton Future to participate in its Witherspoon Street Corridor Study, which examined the street, from Nassau Street to Terhune Road. Most recently, he has become involved with the Princeton Parks Alliance, an organization geared to establishing municipal oversight and repairs to area parks. Most recently, that enterprise has focused on a $125,000 fund-raising project to permanently light the Revolutionary War Monument at Borough Hall -- a longtime goal of Mr. O'Neill's.

Ms. Trelstad cited the hospital's relocation, affordable housing ("it's a much more complex problem than the surface would reveal"), traffic, and University relations as top priorities. She seeks a seat on Council as a member of SPRAB, the Borough Shade Tree Commission, and the Environmental Commission.

"I think that experience could serve me well," she said. Regarding Mr. Wilkes' high recommendation to Council, Ms. Trelstad said she felt all three candidates were qualified and that the members of Council should be left to decide.

"I think Kevin is a very good candidate, but I also think I am too and Anne Neumann is as well."

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