From The Ground Up: Vin Gopal’s Lessons For Up-and-Coming Politicians

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New Jersey State Senator Vin Gopal being sworn in by Senate President Stephen M. Sweeney, Jan. 16, as his parents Indu and Kris Gopal, look on. (Courtesy: Vin Gopal)

Vin Gopal grew up on a diet seeped in politics that his parents cultivated at home. The news was on all the time, discussions on politics frequent. He recalls watching the State of the Union presidential speech with his grandfather. It was almost a given that he would gravitate to politics whichever field he went into. So when he opened a small business in Hazlet Township, he was immediately drawn to the fight against giving breaks to big business. It was probably why he got elected as the president of the Hazlet Township Business Association, and led a victorious lobbying effort that successfully blocked authorities from giving massive tax incentives to Walmart for opening a branch in town.

All politics is local as the saying goes. Gopal embodies that dictum. The lifelong Monmouth County resident, born in Neptune Township and raised in Freehold, climbed the political ladder, and ran for State Senate after garnering years of experience, and building a network of support during his work as the chair of the county’s Democratic Party Committee.

He is a standing example of the type of Indian-American that the Indian American Impact Project and Indian American Impact Fund want to support.

The personable Vin Gopal is today the first Indian-American to be elected to the New Jersey State Senate. His first recommendation to the community which has a running complaint about not having a seat at the table, is to “assimilate, assimilate, assimilate.”

“If I had any advice it would be – it’s important to assimilate. Keep what makes you proud of your culture, keep traditions, religious views, whatever, but get involved in — how a school is run, how the board functions, how a police chief is appointed,” and that’s apart from arts, sports, history and culture of the country you live in,” Gopal told this correspondent soon after he was sworn in on Jan. 16. “It’s what my parents always instilled in me.”

Alongside his political interest, Gopal spent years building his business from the ground up and now has fourteen employees, based out of his Tinton Falls and Hazlet offices. He is also the founder and president of a non-profit dedicated to helping Monmouth County charities and individuals in need.

Gopal served in the past on the Board of Directors for the Monmouth County Chamber of Commerce, where he chaired the Chamber’s Government Affairs Committee. He was also a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth County, and a volunteer EMT for the Colts Neck and Freehold First Aid squads. He continues to be a volunteer with the Long Branch Fire Department.

As a Senator barely weeks into his new office, Gopal is vice-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and serves on the Senate Economic Growth Committee and Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee.

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