A Temple University official is the front-runner to replace Josh Shapiro on the Montgomery County board of commissioners.

Shapiro, formerly the board chair, announced his resignation Jan. 5 after winning the race for Pennsylvania attorney general in November.

When a vacancy opens on the three-member commission that governs the county, state law specifies that Common Pleas Court judges select a replacement.

Anyone interested in self-nominating may turn their cover letter and resume into the Montgomery County court administration office by Jan. 18, according to administrator Michael Kehs.

While the pool is technically open to any voter registered in Montgomery County "who voted for the commissioner whose place is to be filled," per the state code, in practice judges tend to go with the choice of the party of the departing official.

"We've had about 17 people express interest in the position," said Joe Foster, chair of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, including elected officials from school boards and township councils. "Out of the 17 people, [commission chair] Val Arkoosh led the discussion and ultimately made a decision."

Foster said he could not name their pick until the county board of elections had been formally notified, sometime early this week. Arkoosh did not return a request for comment.

Sources familiar with the process say the Democrats chose Ken Lawrence, vice president of alumni relations for Temple University. Before working for Temple, Lawrence worked in public affairs for Merck and started his own public relations firm. He earned a bachelor's in political science from Temple and a master's in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Lawrence, who lives in Plymouth Meeting, responded to requests for comment with this statement:

"I will respect the process the courts have laid out. I have discussed my interest with Chairwoman Arkoosh and the party. I am honored to be among the people considered for this position."

A panel of 22 Montgomery County Common Pleas judges will interview party- and self-nominated candidates on Jan. 23, Kehs said.

If selected, Lawrence will help Arkoosh and Republican Commissioner Joe Gale govern the third most populous — and wealthiest — county in the commonwealth, as well as oversee the spending of a $409.5 million budget.