Lehigh County Commissioner Chair Brad Osborne is calling for cooperation and transparency as the county commissioners begin the task of choosing a replacement for Executive Don Cunningham.
Osborne, who was last November, said, "In choosing the individual who will become County Executive, this Board will exercise a process that is legal, open and fair.
"The goal is clear, the process definitive. Each candidate will be evaluated on their own merit," he said in a prepared release. "Political endorsements will not carry the day."
Cunningham is resigning from office July 8 to become of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Under the county Home Rule Charter, the commissioners will then have 45 days to choose the person to fill out Cunningham's unexpired term or the decision will fall to the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas.
Republicans have the majority on the board, but under the charter, the person chosen must be a Democrat because Cunningham was elected as a Democrat.
"We have been elected by the citizens to make decisions, and as chairman, I will work with my fellow board members to do just that," Osborne said. "I do not expect the Court to make our decision for us."
Cunningham has said that he was leaning toward picking Tom Muller, the county’s director of administration, as his interim successor. Commissioner Dan McCarthy also has expressed interest in the appointment.
Osborne said that, under the charter, the board must follow certain deadlines in accepting applications, vetting candidates, making a recommendation and bringing the recommendation before the full board for confirmation.
Cunningham, first elected in 2005 as county executive and re-elected in 2009, has been earning $75,000 a year running Lehigh County with 3,000 full- and part-time employees and an annual budget of $389 million. When he leaves office July 8, there will be about 18 months remaining on his term.