Ravi Bhalla makes history as first Sikh mayor in New Jersey

BY Briana Vannozzi, Senior Correspondent |

It’s not just a new year, it’s the start of new leadership and a historic moment in the city of Hoboken.

“The first Sikh American to achieve that goal in this state and one of only a handful of individuals to accomplish that goal across the U.S.,” said Gurbir Grewal, attorney general-designate.

Ravi Bhalla, the 44 year-old former city council member was sworn in as Hoboken’s 39th Mayor — the first Sikh mayor in the state of New Jersey.

“There is just something so right and so encouraging about celebrating this moment as we turn the page on 2017 and embark upon a new era, because today, together all of us in this room are turning the page on a year that saw a rise in intolerance across this country. We’re turning a page on a year that saw and an increase in attacks on people based on hate and ignorance and bias,” said Grewal.

His inauguration turned out a slate of Democratic heavy-hitters whose appearance was as much about a show of support for diversity as for a Democrat who will hold the line on policies from Washington.

“This today is not a victory for a narrow community, it is a victory for the principles and ideals of the United States of America, and today the country hears Hoboken again,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

“To mark this historic day, Sen. Cory Booker and I have asked a flag to be flown over the capital of the U.S,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Bhalla succeeds Dawn Zimmer, who did not seek re-election and supported Bhalla on the campaign who fought back as the target of racially charged fliers. Monday, he said intolerance won’t have a place in his city.

“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. So while the mark of the moral universe may be long, there is no doubt that here in Hoboken, it bends firmly toward justice,” said Bhalla.

Bhalla also announced he’ll open an Office of Constituent Services, which will be fully staffed to help the residents of Hoboken with problems big and small, adding his pledge of service, not just through his faith, but now public office.

“No matter how difficult it may be to maintain your Sikh identity in the country, you can do so and you can thrive That there is simply no conflict between your faith and your success to achieve,” said Grewal.

Earlier Monday, Mayor Bhalla completed his first official act of business. He indicated plans to resist the Trump Administration’s immigration policies by signing his first executive order officially designating Hoboken as a “fair and welcoming” city.