Within a couple of weeks after declaring his candidacy in early February, for trustee of the Bartlett Public Library District, Illinois, Parth Patel had knocked at hundreds of doors, and earned the endorsement of an Indian-American activist organization, @ApnaUSA. Patel is among numerous young Indian-Americans keen on getting into electoral office in the wake of the 2018 elections that brought several young faces to Capitol Hill and state capitals.
ApnaUSA, an Illinois-based political action committee, carries a list of local candidates it supports on its website, including Indian-Americans, other South Asian-Americans, and those of other ethnicities, for municipal and school board offices. They include people like Patel, such as Zehra Quadri, who ran and lost the race for 50th Ward Alderman in Chicago in the Feb. 26 municipal elections; Gautam “GB” Bhatia for District 204 School Board; Poonam Gupta-Krishnan for CUSD 303 School Board; Gopal Lalmalani, Oakbrook Village president; Nina Palit, CCSD 15 School Board, who was also endorsed by the Daily Herald, to name just a few.
Born and brought up in Bartlett, Patel, who is running alongside other candidates for the April 2 elections, was endorsed by the grassroots political organization @runforsomething, also secured the support of the local newspaper, the Daily Herald, on March 17. After graduating from Bartlett High School, Patel went on to do his bachelor’s and Master’s in Accountancy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His mother Pushpa is a lab technician and his father is an office manager at a medical practice.
He is among the three candidates the newspaper considered the best for the post. Patel would be good for the library trustee position because his “youthful perspective and idealism offers the promise of new ideas to help the library respond more effectively to new patrons and to expand its role as a community meeting space,” the Daily Herald said.
Patel is conducting a lively Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram campaign, directly linked to his grassroots outreach. Some of the reason for his rising popularity is because he logged quite a few miles by foot on snowy, blistery days, door-knocking.
“I am enjoying the campaigning, reconnecting with people I knew growing up,” Patel told Desi Talk.
Feb. 9, he tweeted, “Day 3 of canvassing was not kind to my hands, but it was kind to my heart in the form of great conversations with neighbors :).” The very next day he had a more adventurous experience – ” Day 4 of canvassing decided to throw some curve balls at me: Multiple slips on ice (no injuries) and my phone crashed twice. Made it through the turf packet in one piece and found some supporters too .”
Patel is a progressive, in line with many of the Millennials running for local offices around the country. “I want to bring my expertise as an accountant and my social justice activism background to the (library) board,” Patel told Desi Talk.
On Facebook, Patel describes his candidacy. “Parth For Library Trustee is a community activist and CPA who wants to bring an orientation of equity, justice, and solidarity to the Library Board,” says Patel, who describes how he became an activist after attending a protest about climate justice three years ago. It opened his eyes.
“I’d never been an activist before, but I asked myself “If not me, then who? If not now, then when?” At that moment, I knew I had to get involved to fight on behalf of my family, my neighbors and my community.”
He goes on to say, “I believe that this same fight for justice extends to the library, and into the decisions that are made by the library board about what programs are offered and funded, and whether or not our entire community is served. These decisions are a reflection of our values.”
The library is a place where people can become wiser members of the community. “I’m running for library trustee to act as an advocate for everyone in our community, and to make sure that we all have a seat at the table,” Patel says.