The newly elected mayor of Elk Grove discusses her plans for the city, breaking barriers and staying grounded in the midst of an acrimonious campaign.
What’s the biggest challenge Elk Grove is facing currently, and how will you address it?
The biggest concern isn’t unique to our city, and that is economic recovery from COVID-19. I would like to see the creation of an economic recovery task force that is made up of business, labor and nonprofit leaders to provide recommendations not only to reopen Elk Grove but to sustain us through the pandemic.
You are the first directly elected Sikh woman in the nation to hold the office of mayor. Tell me what that means to you.
I’m incredibly humbled, and it’s an honor. But as I reflect on it, the Sikh community has been in California for over 100 years, so it’s also a little heartbreaking that it took this long to break that barrier. At the same time, we are just now shattering the glass ceiling with the election of Kamala Harris as vice president. So this is an opportunity to ensure that we’re not the only ones. We need to pave the way for other women of color to move into leadership roles.
How do your parents feel about your mayoral win?
When we saw the first set of election results and I was ahead, my parents were bawling. We moved to this country when I was 4 years old, and never did we imagine that one day I would be the mayor of a city. They always encouraged me to run for office, and it was a family affair. My mother was voracious about reaching out to voters, and my father is an amazing fundraiser.
It was by all accounts a bitter campaign. What kept you grounded during that time?
I’ve always turned to my mother and also to Sikh scripture. Even for those who have wronged you, you pray for them to see the light and to be better. It is definitely central to the Sikh faith to see the humanity in everyone, not just those you agree with.