Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 12, 2002
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
New Stroke for the Chamber
The search committee that went looking for the next
president of the Princeton Chamber decided that the successful
would need local roots, and the person they chose, Kristin Appelget,
certainly has those.
Appelget’s father is a West Windsor farmer and volunteer firefighter
and her mother is a West Windsor township administrator. Her
directed the Princeton chapter of the American Red Cross, and her
grandfather worked at RCA, now Sarnoff. Her maternal great grandfather
was Jack Honore, who owned the quintessential barbershop on Palmer
The committee also seems to have chosen energy over experience.
is just 31 years old and since graduating from college has had but
one job, as financial advisor for a Princeton Overlook-based UBS
team that does institutional investments. And though she majored in
government and public policy and was elected to serve on West
township council, she has the image of being more the professional
businesswoman than the glad-handing politician.
A shoulder-to-the-wheel person, she delights in marshaling and
volunteers and in achieving success through consensus. Her
service" talk has been her lifestyle. But in her challenge, to
wrest the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Princeton Area from its
doldrums, she could have stiff competition from neighboring chambers
to the north and south that, unlike Princeton’s, are on an upward
curve. And her handicap will be the faltering economy.
Appelget says she is ready for the challenge. For the West Windsor
swim team, the state champions, she was a distance freestyler, and
at Notre Dame she rowed the stroke seat on an eight-woman boat. She
calls her competitive attitude "wanting to win and to
"We are going to look to grow," says Appelget, speaking of
how the chamber used to have 1,200 members and has dwindled to half
that size. "My goal is to get back to that high level. After the
capital, Princeton is the most well-known town in the state of New
Jersey. We have such a tremendous resource with the Princeton brand.
There is so much the chamber can do to promote business, arts groups,
and the community, so that it is easier for existing businesses to
attract high quality people to work for their company."
"If the major companies aren’t members, I need to find out why,
what wasn’t offered to them, why they were not perceiving a
says Appelget. "My hope is that businesses here in Princeton and
people who want to do business in Princeton will consider it
necessary to be part of the Princeton chamber.
As does Appelget, the current president of Mercer’s chamber, Carol
Beske, plays down the specter of competition. "I don’t view it
as competition as much as opening opportunities for the chambers to
work together," says Beske. She adds, pointedly, "That has
not always been possible."
Beske knew Appelget when she was in high school, and thinks the new
job is a good move for her. "She will do a fabulous job. She is
a joy to work with — she never complains and never says no."
Appelget has an athlete’s build and a six-foot-one frame and believes
her height gives her an advantage: "I have found in certain
that, just by having a certain physical presence, that even as a young
person you can be taken more seriously."
What benefits her youth might bring: "A great advantage, because
I am of the technology generation," says Appelget. That she is
comfortable with the Internet is one obvious way she can help change
the chamber, but she also talks of more basic improvements, such as
an interactive welcome center kiosk that could substitute for a rack
of brochures, and a dedicated 800 number for automatic responses to
tourist inquiries. "I am not afraid to use technology to promote
She also wants to reach out to young entrepreneurs, and to businesses
owned by women and minorities. "There is a place in the chamber
for them, whether as a women’s advisory council or a minority-owned
Appelget is considering running again for West Windsor council when
her term expires next year and is not worried about a potential
of interest with that job. "You have the integrity to acknowledge
when there is a conflict and recuse yourself," she says. And she
denies that the chamber job is a stepping stone that would further
her political ambitions. "I am not looking at this as a political
job but as a culmination of so many different aspects of my life."
First among those, in her mind, is service. She is active in the
Corridor Rotary and she also had volunteered at the West Windsor
of the Mercer chamber. Her father and brother are volunteer
in West Windsor. And Appelget had a close relationship to her
Ann Honore, who led the effort to hold the area’s first blood donation
"My grandmother used to love to talk about government and public
events and we had a lot of conversations. She led by example, not
seeking the accolades and the attention, but because she knew it was
the right thing to do," says Appelget.
Both for Rotary and for the township Appelget has had to recruit
and this will also be a big part of her chamber job. "The
won’t work just because of me," she says. "One of my
is motivating the volunteers, giving them resources, and being
to their concerns."
Appelget’s father and grandfather were farmers. In the summers she
and her younger brother and sister (Kevin is an environmental
for Schoor DePalma, and Katie has just taken a new job with Covance)
helped with weeding and picking rocks out of the fields of soybeans,
corn, and wheat. Her mother is an administrator in the township’s
community development office and active in the fire company auxiliary.
"My parents have always been involved locally and the sense of
public service they instilled in me was very important," Appelget
In addition to being on the swim team at West Windsor-Plainsboro High
School, she was a candystriper at Princeton Medical Center and a
at Dutch Neck Presbyterian Church. She won a scholarship from the
West Windsor division of the Mercer chamber.
After graduation in 1989, Appelget went to Notre Dame and switched
from swimming to rowing. She graduated magna cum laude with a degree
in government and public policy, with the emphasis on policy. Her
senior project was to evaluate the program of a homeless shelter.
"I love to do research," she says.
Appelget started at PaineWebber in 1993, direct from college, working
on Marc Shegoski’s team. "It wasn’t a healthy economy, and it
was difficult for an arts and letters major to find a job," says
Appelget. "Financial management was one of the areas where you
could be hired with a skillset of being able to evaluate and
which is a lot of what we do here."
Appelget’s own opportunity for significant community service came
when Carole Carson, the mayor in 1997, appointed her to the West
Recreation Commission. Appelget also served for two years on the WW-P
High School Futures Committee studying grade configurations at the
two district high schools.
Though she was asked to run for West Windsor Council the following
year, she declined, because of the negative political atmosphere.
"I looked at some of things that were going on with council then
and it wasn’t something I wanted to be involved in," she told
the West Windsor-Plainsboro News. "Things that were vicious and
destructive to people’s character."
The more she watched, the angrier she got. She agreed to run in
of 1999. "I was tired of what I was seeing going on," she
said. "I think that’s how a lot of people get involved in
They see something happening they don’t like and try to work to change
In 1999 she was elected to council by a large margin and was second
in total votes only to Shing-Fu Hsueh, who is now mayor. Being a West
Windsor native helped ease the steep learning curve. "I ask a
lot of questions. There was a lot to digest, but I knew everyone in
municipal building — I worked as a temporary employee in the tax
department one summer, and understood how things worked at town
She was one of 20 Republican women from the state chosen to
in the 10-session Christine Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service
When she was elected council president in 2000, she told the WW-P
News that her job was to keep everyone on track. "There are five
very distinct personalities on council. My job is to bring people’s
strengths to the table. I like to say that we are a functional
group," she added. "For all the discussion we have we
do come to resolution on most issues."
Appelget applied for the Princeton chamber job as soon as the notices
went out in January. An in-depth personality test by Caliper and two
screening interviews was followed by a presentation to the board of
directors on why she should be the next president. "I spoke from
the heart, and I think they sensed that."
What Appelget did not do was to suddenly start going to the Princeton
Chamber’s meetings in order to gladhand everyone. On Thursday, June
6, when she addressed the membership at the Doral Forrestal, it was
the very first meeting she had attended.
— Barbara Fox
"The chamber is fortunate to have attracted
someone of Kristin Appelget’s caliber and commitment," says
Hierl, president of the Pacesetter Group, the Montgomery Knoll-based
management consulting firm and chair of the committee that selected
the new president of the Princeton Chamber. "Someone has to be
really passionate about this kind of job. It has to be almost a
The Pacesetter Group works with New Jersey firms (primarily
financial, and telecommunications firms) on successful organizational
change and large scale organization performance improvement.
Hierl designed the selection process not only to hire a person but
also to get everyone in the Princeton Chamber on the same page. The
chamber had been roiled by the awkward exit of its longtime president,
Ellen Hodges, last December. "The process worked successfully,
and the result is the proof of the process," says Hierl.
The search committee consisted of architect Bob Hillier; David Holmes,
the chamber chair and executive director of the Eden Family of
Jim Kilgore, publisher of the Princeton Packet; Joann Mitchell,
provost of Princeton University; David Newton, vice president of
Square; Jim Carnes, CEO of Sarnoff; Phyllis Frakt, provost of Rider
University, Rick Arons, managing partner at Korn Ferry International,
and Herb Greenberg, CEO of Caliper.
A side benefit of having all these important people on the search
committee is that they, and the institutions they represent, are now
committed to Appleget’s success and the chamber’s future. "By
being an integral part in the process, they got a feel for the mission
and got excited by what the chamber could do," says Hierl.
An advantage for the committee was that all the finalists took the
tests designed by Caliper to identify weaknesses and strengths.
allowed the search committee to focus our probing questions on key
areas that needed to be explored further," says Hierl.
The committee screened more than 260 applicants. The qualifications
they sought eventually included "a working knowledge of the
Princeton area and the key stakeholders of the chamber." A
could be successful in the job without local knowledge, says Hierl,
"but it shortens the learning curve and accelerates our ability
to show progress. It was critical to the selection of Kristin."
— Barbara Fox
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