Ravinder Bhalla, 43, was sworn-in as the 39th mayor of Hoboken on Jan 1, becoming the first Sikh mayor in the state of New Jersey.
Bhalla, an attorney and former Hoboken councilman, took the oath holding guru granth sahib, Sikhism's holy book, in front of a crowd of about 700, many of them Indian Americans from Hoboken and neighboring Jersey City, in the auditorium of Hoboken High School.
Bhalla was joined by his wife, two kids and his parents, along with friends and supporters and a Sikh priest. Also in attendance were, US Senators from New Jersey, Bob Menendez and Cory Booker; NJ state senator Brian Stack; mayors of several neighboring towns; and Gurbir Grewal, New Jersey's attorney general-elect and a turbaned Sikh himself.
Bhalla was joined by Hoboken's three at-large council members, Jim Doyle, Vanessa Falco and Emily Jabbour. Doyle begins his second full term today, Falco and Jabbour their first terms.
In his inaugural speech, Bhalla referenced the "dotbuster" incidents, a rash of racially-motivated attacks on Indian Americans in Hudson County in 1987, one of them a fatal beating of a Jersey City man in Hoboken.
"What a long way we've come," he said. "This past election was a model of diversity showcasing for New Jersey and America a city that cares less about who you love, where you came from, what your gender is, where you worship than they care about your ability to take on the challenges ahead for our city."
Bhalla succeeds one of his allies, Dawn Zimmer, who did not seek a third term last year. In his speech, Bhalla pledged to focus on core governmental functions and infrastructure projects in the Mile Square city.
Bhalla's win in the six-person mayor's race came days after fliers appeared in Hoboken smearing him as a terrorist. U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a Democrat, who performed the oath of office for Bhalla, said the election result should be seen as a victory for the nation's principles and ideals.
Source: TV Asia bureau