New Jersey Governor-elect selects several Indian-Americans to transition team

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The Indian-American community met with New Jersey gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy, several times in the course of his campaign. (Photo: News India Times)

New Jersey’s Governor-elect Phil Murphy, is already displaying his close connections to the Indian-American community which he courted during his election campaign.

Barely a week after winning his seat to lead the state Nov. 7, Murphy has selected an Indian-American veteran, Lt. Col. Kamal S. Kalsi to his Transition 2018 leadership team, in the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Nov. 13. Kalsi told News India Times he was “truly humbled by the brain power on the committee” which included four other members.

Apart from Kalsi, Murphy’s Transition 2018 team, which was carried by numerous New Jersey media outlets, includes several other Indian-Americans and South Asian-Americans, including Jay Bhatti, co-founder of BrandProject, to his Government Technology and Innovation Committee; Balpreet Grewal-Virk, Ph.D, director of Community Engagement, Department of Population Health at Hackensack Meridian Health, to his Healthcare Committee; Ehsan F. Chowdhry, president, New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, to the Law and Justice Committee; Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, former senior advisor and director of logistics and industrial opportunities for former Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker, to his Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Kalsi is the president and founder of the Sikh-American Veterans Alliance, a recently-formed group.

Lt. Col. Kamal S. Kalsi (Photo: Sikh Coalition)

“The team I am in has a General Officer and other prominent people. I am a nobody. I am truly humbled,” Kalsi, an Army emergency medicine doctor, who served on the frontlines in Afghanistan, told News India Times. “We will be helping set the policy and agenda for military and veterans affairs based on Governor-elect Murphy’s broad recommendations,” Kalsi added. Kalsi has been outspoken about the need to make the U.S. armed forces more inclusive.

“I pledged to build my administration to mirror the diversity, talent, and potential of New Jersey, and my transition will be no different,” Governor-elect Murphy is quoted saying in a press release. Murphy won by a 13-percentage point lead over his Republican opponent Kim Guadagno. “To a person, this transition is full of incredible talent and experience, and I’m thrilled to see them serve. Together, we’ll start the difficult job of building a stronger, fairer economy that works for all nine million New Jerseyans,” Murphy added.

“We need to make sure veterans from all generations – from those who served in the Vietnam War era to those who are returning from the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan – have the care and support they deserve,” Kalsi said in a statement. “Knowing we are still a country at war, we will also work to make sure all New Jerseyans have the opportunity to serve our country.” Kalsi, the first Sikh soldier to receive a religious accommodation to wear a turban and maintain a beard in uniform in over a generation, added in a statement he sent out about his new appointment. He will continue in the U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Dix, N.J., and will work with Murphy’s team on his own time, Kalsi clarified.