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Young Turks: Indian Americans Take Charge as Mayors of Two Large American Cities

Young Turks: Indian Americans Take Charge as Mayors of Two Large American Cities

  • Samip Joshi becomes the first South Asian American and youngest mayor of Edison, N.J., while Aftab Pureval is the first Asian American to lead Cincinnati, Ohio.

It was a moment of pride for the Indian American community as two of our own took charge as mayors of two large U.S. cities. Samip (Sam) Joshi became the first South Asian American and the youngest mayor to serve Edison, New Jersey; while in Cincinnati, Ohio, Indian-Tibetan Aftab Pureval was sworn-in. Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla also took his oath of office for a second term.

The New Year began with the Jan. 1 swearing-in of Sam Joshi as Mayor of Edison. Joshi, 32, took his oath of office at J.P. Stevens High School, his alma mater, in front of his family, friends and township employees He was sworn in by Jersey City Mayor Steven Flop, also a J.P. Stevens alumni. Joshi’s running mates Margot Harris, Nishith Patel, and John Poyner were also sworn-in as council members.

“My goal is for Edison to serve as the catalyst for unity and good government,” Joshi wrote in a Facebook post. “Every decision made is going to prioritize the quality of life for our residents. I’m humbled and excited for the next four years.”

In his speech, as reported by, Joshi stressed the need to focus on how communities can come together, learn and appreciate one another moving away from the stagnation and division of the past. “We have to see the bigger picture,” he said. “We have to move forward united.” He said being among the most diverse population in the U.S., Edison is home to every culture, religion, ethnicity and every economic status. “The demographics of Edison compare like greater America and because of this, we are uniquely positioned to be a catalyst of unity in our society, but it is up to us to bring that change.”

Joshi has been involved in local government since age 14. “A dedicated public servant, Joshi was the youngest to serve on the Fair Rental Housing Authority and the Zoning Board of Adjustment,” says his profile on his official Facebook page. He was elected as an at-large Council member at 27 years old, making him the youngest elected official in Edison’s history. Since joining the Edison Township Council in 2017, Joshi has worked to keep taxes low, help women and minority-owned businesses get on their feet, and promote green energy throughout the township.

Although Edison has a significant Indian American population, Joshi is the first mayor of South Asian heritage to lead the township. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, there are 28,286 Asian Indians in the township. AAPI Data reveals that Edison, one of the largest cities in New Jersey, also has one of the largest Asian populations in the state. “The share of Asian residents in Edison is five times larger than the share of Asians in the New Jersey population as a whole,” the data reveals. “While Asians make up 9 percent of the population in New Jersey, they are 47 percent of the population in Edison. The Asian population in Edison grew by 20 percent, compared to 2.3 percent for the general population from the 2006-2010 to the 2011-2015 American Community Survey reporting periods,” the data says.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla being sworn-in for a second term.

Hoboken, New Jersey

A couple of miles away in the northern part of the state, Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla was sworn-in on Jan. 1, for a second term. A former eight-year member of the Hoboken City Council, Bhalla made history in 2017, by becoming the first Sikh to hold elected office in New Jersey and the first directly elected Sikh to become mayor in the U.S.

“I’m looking forward to the next four years as we continue to make Hoboken an even better place to live,” he wrote on his social media handles. “Thank you to my family and all of the supporters who have been a part of this journey. I know that for Hoboken, the best is yet to come,” he wrote. “I was sworn in today with my hand on the Gutka, a book of Sikh scriptures and spiritual hymns, as I was four years ago, with my wife, kids and extended family by my side.”

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Cincinnati, Ohio

In Cincinnati, Ohio, new mayor Aftab Pureval, 39 took the oath of office at the Washington Park on Jan. 4, as family, friends, well-wishers and supporters gathered on a cold Tuesday. “Cincinnati, a great new chapter lies before us,” Pureval wrote on his social media handles. “There will be challenges and hard decisions, but I commit to you this: I will work hard every day to make you proud of our city. Time to get to work.”

“Cincinnati it is with overwhelming gratitude that I accept the challenges and the hope you have entrusted to me,” quoted Pureval as saying at the Jan. 4 inauguration. “Today we have a historically diverse and cohesive set of council members before you, council members who bring a lifetime’s worth of unique experiences, challenges and talents.” Pureval biked to the ceremony on a Red Bike along with some council members, “a nod to campaign promises to make the city safe, walkable and bike-friendly,” reported. 

In November, Pureval defeated longtime city council member and two-time mayor David Mann in his first run for Cincinnati, Ohio’s highest office. The 39-year-old lawyer is the first Asian American elected mayor. 

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