Taj grew up in Pakistan and Netherlands.
Pakistani American Ali Sajjad Taj was sworn-in to the Artesia City Council, in California, earlier this month.
Taj, a 45-year-old financial consultant, said he is the first Pakistani American to be elected in Artesia, if not all of California or even the entire western United States. The incoming council member acknowledged that he did not know of a definitive list of Pakistani Americans holding office, but could also find no information identifying others of Pakistani heritage who have won elective office, reported Press-Telegram.
Taj was elected in his first bid for political office.
“It does feel good,” he said in an interview to the Press-Telegram. “It does feel very energetic, and I’ll be part of taking Artesia to the next level, for sure.”
Artesia elects its council members on an at-large basis, and election results placed Taj second in a field of six candidates that included three incumbents and three challengers. Generally, the divide between the incumbents and challengers was whether or not City Hall has taken the needed steps to be more responsive to small business owners and residents.
Mayor Sally Flowers took first place and incumbent City Council member Victor Manalo was also re-elected to a four-year term, having finished in third place.
Taj was born in Pakistan and grew up in Lahore. He attended high school at The British School of the Netherlands, which is in The Hague, and eventually followed his family to the United States in the mid-1990s.
In Pakistan, Taj learned to speak Urdu, Punjabi and Hindi. In Europe, he spoke Dutch, French and German. He was also introduced to multiple religions as a youth, and said he attends services at different churches in the Artesia area.
“I embrace all religions, quite frankly. I was raised in Islam and went to a Catholic school in Pakistan,” he said.
Artesia is a fairly small city, having about 15,000 residents as of the last census county. The diverse town has a prominent South Asian population, and Pioneer Boulevard is lined with several Indian American owned enterprises. Artesia also has Filipino and Latino residents, and Dutch and Portuguese immigrants helped build the town when the dairy industry was key to its economy during the 1940s.
Taj said he introduced himself to the city and its voters by going door to door to speak with residents, sometimes making three if not more visits to a residence.