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By Larry Caballero

It was a standing room only crowd Dec. 12 at the Albert E. Little Community Center in Artesia where Councilmember Ali Taj was elected Mayor for the first time.

This was history in the making because Taj is now the first Pakistani-American elected as mayor in the Western United States. Numerous public officials and dignitaries congratulated Taj, including Los Angeles County Supervisor-elect Janice Hahn, who said that whenever he promises to attend a public event to represent his city, he never disappoints.

“I am sure that he won’t be disappointing this city either, the city that he loves, and I am looking forward to working closely with him in the months and years ahead,” said Hahn.

Taj began his speech by thanking outgoing Mayor Dr. Victor Manalo “for his service to our city and to our community.”

He said, “Over the last few years, I’ve been able to meet and engage with most of the residents and business owners here in Artesia on matters of civic and business interest.  During the course of these conversations, I have often found myself deeply impressed by our residents’ commitment to community and to public service.”

He thanked them for “sharing the same goal of improving the quality of life in our community, and who are putting their efforts into achieving that goal, too.”

Having a degree in economic, and spending his professional career in the financial services industry, he has been able to approve city budgets “that are balanced, frugal and prudent, and, most importantly, dedicating funds to a committed contingency reserve.”

In 2016, the reserve reached a level equivalent to 100% of the city’s total General Fund Budget that allowed the city council and staff to redirect these savings into budgets and spending priorities. These funded the City’s most important strategic initiatives that improved the most critical and valuable services. Some of those included public safety, code enforcement, parks programs, transportation and infrastructure maintenance.

City staff is currently and actively working with over 30 development proposals.

“I give a lot of credit to our City Manager, Mr. Bill Rawlings and staff. His knowledge and professional management has added a great deal of value to help move our city forward in the last four years.”

Taj is especially excited about the building of a new Community Center that would support expanded programs for the youth, veterans, and seniors of Artesia.

“We live in a very diverse city. My approach has been, and will continue to be, to reach out to create inclusiveness and to drive engagement with everyone and all communities.”

Taj said he truly believes in bringing everyone together “to make us a better community, a better City, and a better place to live.”

In order to achieve that goal, he plans to hold more outreach events and programs like town hall meetings, neighborhood watch programs, prayer breakfasts, community coffees, and meet & greets.

“We will continue to invest our resources to make our downtown shopping district a vibrant place to shop,” said Taj, and the Chamber of Commerce, library and parks will continue to be our key focuses.”

In his previous career, he always tried to bring women into key leadership positions. “This will also be one of my focuses as Mayor,” said Taj.