Appleget’s Bio

Anatomy of the Search

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

candidate

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

grandmother

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

Square.

The committee also seems to have chosen energy over experience.

Appelget

is just 31 years old and since graduating from college has had but

one job, as financial advisor for a Princeton Overlook-based UBS

PaineWebber

team that does institutional investments. And though she majored in

government and public policy and was elected to serve on West

Windsor’s

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

motivating

volunteers and in achieving success through consensus. Her

"selfless

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

succeed."

"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

benefit,"

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

instances

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

businesses."

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

business council."

Appelget is considering running again for West Windsor council when

her term expires next year and is not worried about a potential

conflict

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

Princeton

Corridor Rotary and she also had volunteered at the West Windsor

division

of the Mercer chamber. Her father and brother are volunteer

firefighters

in West Windsor. And Appelget had a close relationship to her

grandmother,

Ann Honore, who led the effort to hold the area’s first blood donation

drives.

"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

volunteers,

and this will also be a big part of her chamber job. "The

organization

won’t work just because of me," she says. "One of my

responsibilities

is motivating the volunteers, giving them resources, and being

receptive

to their concerns."

Top Of Page
Appleget’s Bio

Appelget’s father and grandfather were farmers. In the summers she

and her younger brother and sister (Kevin is an environmental

consultant

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

said.

In addition to being on the swim team at West Windsor-Plainsboro High

School, she was a candystriper at Princeton Medical Center and a

volunteer

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

communicate,

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

Windsor

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

January

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

government.

They see something happening they don’t like and try to work to change

it."

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

hall."

She was one of 20 Republican women from the state chosen to

participate

in the 10-session Christine Todd Whitman Excellence in Public Service

Series.

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

dysfunctional

group," she added. "For all the discussion we have we

generally

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

Top Of Page
Anatomy of the Search

"The chamber is fortunate to have attracted

someone of Kristin Appelget’s caliber and commitment," says

Michael

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

lifestyle."

The Pacesetter Group works with New Jersey firms (primarily

pharmaceutical,

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

Services;

Jim Kilgore, publisher of the Princeton Packet; Joann Mitchell,

associate

provost of Princeton University; David Newton, vice president of

Palmer

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.

"It

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

greater

Princeton area and the key stakeholders of the chamber." A

candidate

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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