Son of the soil: Sam Joshi sworn in as youngest Mayor of Edison, N.J.

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Sam Joshi, left, being sworn in as Mayor of Edison, N.J, jan. 1, 2022, by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop. Photo: ITV Gold

It was an emotional moment for Edison Township when a young Indian-American businessman, Sam Joshi, 32, born and brought up in this city, was sworn in to lead it January 1, 2022.

And it was befitting that the ceremony was conducted at John P. Stevens High School, the institution that played a part in shaping the dreams and strengthening the leadership qualities that Joshi already displayed at a young age, going by what the former principal of John P. Stevens, Gail PawliKowski had to say when she invited Joshi to be sworn in on stage.

Around 200 people attended the swearing-in ceremony of Sam Joshi as Mayor of Edison, N.J., at his former high school J.P. Stevens, Jan. 1, 2022. Photo: ITV Gold

With some 200 people, including Joshi’s parents and relatives there to watch the ceremony, the young man sounded a businesslike tone in his pointed speech about announcing timelines to meet all the goals he had been talking about during his campaign, and investing in unity and diversity of the town that boasts the highest concentration of Asians, particularly those of South Asian origin.

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But Joshi was emotional and had some poignant words about his roots recounting how his parents came to the United States 34 years ago, settled in Edison where they opened a small convenience store, “earning enough money to buy a home and raise a family in hopes that their children would have the opportunities that they never did.”

Sworn in by Mayor Steve Fulop of Jersey City, Joshi and his Council running mates Nishith Patel, Margot Harris and John Poyner promised to serve the community while in office.

Gail Pawlikowski, former principal of John P. Stevens High School, speaking at the swearing-in ceremony of her former student Sam Joshi, as Mayor of Edison, N.J. Jan. 1, 2022. Photo: ITV Gold

Principal Pawlikowski said that even during his years at the high school, Joshi displayed his charisma, people skills, and leadership qualities. “It was clear to all who knew him that he was destined for a career in government from the way he carried himself, to the way he addressed others, [and] to the way he handled controversy,” Pawlikowski said in her speech. “Sam had the charisma, the intelligence and the calling to serve. His leadership qualities served him well in classes and all his extracurricular activities,” the former principal said, adding,  “Now Sam will serve his community and be a role model…”

Joshi harkened back to history about how the township he now leads, gained its name from inventor Thomas Edison 145 years ago, and now, it was time for another breakthrough – the need for action on the visions of leaders – bringing unity.

Edison, Joshi noted, is home to every culture, religion, ethnicity and economic status. “And because of this, we have a multitude of different viewpooints and different priorities we must navigate,” he said.

In his inimitable down-to-brass-tacks style, Joshi said within the next few weeks his team would be announcing timelines for the goals he has been outlining throughout his campaign.

He asked for the continued support of the community and promised to be easily accessible to everyone.

Newly sworn Mayor of Edison, N.J. Sam Joshi with Edison youth, posing for a photo at his swearing in ceremony Jan. 1, 2022 at john P. Stevens High School. Photo: ITV Gold.

“I need you and Edison needs you. If we come together and work toward our common goals, there are no limits to the heights to be achieved,” he said.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s famous words, “Be the change you wish to see in this world,” Joshi said, “I wish for Edison to b e the catalyst of unity and good government,” ending with enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience where his father, mother and other members of the family stood on the front row.

“This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time,” Joshi said.  “This is a new day. This is a new chapter in Edison Township and I look forward to serving each and every single one of you. I’m standing with my family right now (which) has been a bedrock for hope and inspiration,” Joshi said.

Growing up in Edison, he gained a true appreciation for the values shared by the community, “Values like diversity and acceptance which was a must in a school system with students from all over the world,” Joshi said.

Newly sworn Mayor of Edison, N.J. Sam Joshi with members of the family and community, pose for a photo at his swearing in ceremony Jan. 1, 2022 at John P. Stevens High School. Photo: ITV Gold.

Becoming part of the government at the age of 14 when he joined the Edison Youth Service Corps, Joshi said his engagement gained him the knowledge of how local government can really impact the day-to-day lives of the community. “With that experience in mind, I can promise to you that we will set a new standard of excellence in local government and that I will do my best each and every day to run a modern, efficient and honest government that all residents can be proud of.”

With his election last November 2, 2021, Joshi made history as the first Indian-American elected mayor of the fifth largest city in the state and one of the most multicultural.

Edison Township, which falls within the ambit of the large New York City metropolitan region, has a population of just over 100,000 and houses a vibrant Little India on Oaktree Road, boasting the highest concentration of Indian-Americans and people of Indian and South Asian origin in the country. More than 40 percent of the population of the Township is of Asian descent.

In an exclusive interview with ITV Gold after he became Mayor-elect, Joshi said every culture would be top-of-mind for him with equal standing.

His highest priorities were reducing the tax burden, controlling overdevelopment, and launching broadband.

A section of the audience at the Jan. 1, 2022, swearing in of Edison, N.J. Mayor Sam Joshi. Photo: ITV Gold.

“We have to have managed growth, smart growth,” and stagger development, and adopt those that are reasonable and fair to residents,” Joshi said upon his election, noting that education alone had significant challenges he wanted to tackle once in office.

“We need a new school to be built. We have identified multiple locations,” he said back in November.

Since becoming Mayor-elect, Joshi has been meeting different sections of government, to familiarize himself with the administration.

Joshi became the youngest Town Council Vice President of Edison Township, and at the age of 27, the youngest elected official in Edison. For his mayoral race, he was endorsed in his race by all the heavy hitters from Gov. Phil Murphy down, and including Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Cory Booker, and Congressman Frank Pallone. He ousted his competitor during the primaries, another Indian-American Mahesh Bhagia.

He displayed his skill as a consensus builder by drafting a resolution aimed at COVID-19 related hate speech and bias crimes which garnered the unanimous support of the Edison Township Council in May 2020. “The purpose of the resolution is to address hate towards race, religion and ethnicity,” Joshi is quoted saying at that time in a news report carried by centraljersey.com.

Joshi attended John. P. Stevens High School, and graduated from Rutgers University in Labor Studies and Political Science. He co-founded Loansribe which dealt with refinancing student loans. He was Division Manager and then Executive Vice President of SD Capital Funding for more than 9 years starting in 2012. He is a member of the Board of Directors of The Jewish Renaissance Foundation.

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