Live by the sword, die by the sword. That might be in the minds of some Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce board members, as they absorb the announcement made Monday, April 10, that Kristin Appelget, the chamber president for not quite four years, was resigning her post to become the new director of community and regional affairs at Princeton University, effective May 22.
Appelget was hired in 2002 after a lengthy, nationwide search to find a successor to Ellen Hodges, who had been the only executive director the chamber had previously had. The chair of that search committee, Michael Hierl of the Pacesetter Group, the management consulting firm at Montgomery Knoll, pulled out all the stops, including not only the usual chamber volunteers, but also some high powered business leaders, among them architect Bob Hillier; Joann Mitchell, associate provost of Princeton University; David Newton, vice president of Palmer Square; Jim Carnes, then CEO of Sarnoff; Rick Arons, managing partner at Korn Ferry International, the executive search firm, and Herb Greenberg, CEO of Caliper, the personnel consulting firm.
The committee screened more than 260 applicants and the finalists took the Caliper tests designed to identify weaknesses and strengths. From that pool Appelget emerged the winner, in part because of her local roots and seemingly endless energy.
Now those same characteristics must have made her stand out in the field of applicants for the position vacation by Pam Hersh, who left the university post to take a similar job with the Princeton Healthcare System. Appelget’s community connections, including her elected position on the Township Committee in West Windsor Township (a position she is resigning to avoid any possible conflict of interest), and knowledge of the business community will no doubt be helpful as she helps the university operate among its many neighbors, including those who will be affected by the proposed new $100 million arts program expansion.
And the energy must also have been a positive factor. Appelget, 35, describes 40 hours as “just the start of the week” for the Chamber job, and notes that the position, with its breakfast panels, evening receptions, and weekend community events, is really a “lifestyle position.”
Now Appelget may be moving from the frying pan to the fire. She will report to Vice President and Secretary Robert K. Durkee ‘69 and as he was quoted in the Daily Princetonian, “her days and her nights and her weekends will be very full.”
Appelget says she reached out for the university job when she saw Hersh’s old position posted on the website. “The job description seemed so much like the skills and experience I had — working with the municipalities, relationships with community groups and businesses,” she says. “Plus working at Princeton has always been in the back of my mind. I grew up around here, and I’m academically oriented, and it’s exciting to be around people committed to learning.”
She says she has no regrets about leaving the Chamber at this point in time. “It’s clear to everyone that things have turned around in the past four years,” she says. “We have more than doubled the number of members (from under 400 to around 950), and we’re on a sound financial footing,” including the acquisition of its office on Vandeventer Avenue in Princeton Borough after years of paying rent in Forrestal Village.
More importantly, she maintains, the turnaround “wasn’t just me. It was myself and the staff and the board and a lot of community support. We expanded the board from 18 members to 30 members, and it now includes representatives of some pretty significant organizations, large, small, profit, and non-profit.”
Her successor, she suggests, will be chosen more quickly than she was — the search committee will be formed and have its first meeting by next Monday, April 17. “I wouldn’t want to speak for the committee but I would suggest that the new person be a leader who can also roll up his sleeves. This is not a figurehead position, this is a worker position.
“The successful candidate is probably someone who is already known around here. I can’t speak for the board but they probably won’t have to go to Texas or North Carolina to find someone. It’s a lot different situation than it was four years ago.”
Michael Hierl, who led that search four years ago and has since stepped down as chairman of the Chamber board (replaced by Karen Jezierny, who also works at Princeton University), says he has nothing but full support for Appleget’s career move. “With good people you have to be grateful for the time they are associated with you. She has left the Chamber in far stronger shape than when she started.”
As for her successor, Hierl guesses that Jezierny and Larry Krampf, another board member expected to be active in the search, and others involved in the process will seek someone “who can take it from the 1,000-member range to the 2,000 or 3,000 level. This time it will probably be a more targeted search with a smaller but much more experienced group of candidates. It’s not a rescue operation.”
How much more can the Chamber ask of its CEO, if the last one gave most of her lifestyle to it? Hierl says the Chamber has reached a transition point: “Kristin was about to get to the point of adding on some new staff. The new person can expect to have more help, and will be able to delegate some of the things that Kristin has had to do.”
Will that mean expanding in their current building or needing some new space? “Physically we may be running out of space,” says Hierl. The building the Chamber owns just off Nassau Street has two apartments on the floor above the office, and with Borough approval it could possibly be converted into office space. Or the Chamber might have to make another move in the downtown Princeton real estate market. Either way, it’s not a bad problem to have.
Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, 9 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton 08542. Kristin Appelget, president and CEO. 609-924-1776. Home page: www.princetonchamber.org
Anichem LLC, 7 Deer Park Drive, Princeton Corporate Plaza, Suite M 6, Monmouth Junction 08852; 732-355-1882; fax, 732-355-1886. Hong Zhou, owner. www.anichemllc.com
Anichem LLC has changed its name from Nu Beka Pharma. Recently it moved from Suite P to M-1 at Princeton Corporate Plaza and is sharing laboratory space with Accellant Inc. in Suite D.
The manufacturer and supplier of novel and synthetically versatile chemical intermediates has grown to six employees.
Faithful & Gould (ATK.L), 100 Canal Pointe Boulevard, Suite 212, Princeton 08540; 609-514-0900; fax, 609-514-9888. Paul Wood, CEO. www.fgould.com
Faithful & Gould, project and cost management consultants, changed its name from Hanscomb, Faithful & Gould in mid-January. The 50-person office offers owners’ representation and project management (U.S. 1, July 10, 2002).