EDISON – It was only fitting that Mayor Samip “Sam” Joshi took his oath of office at his alma mater, John P. Stevens High School.
It was in the halls and classrooms of the school where he was inspired to begin his political career. He was just 14 years old when he volunteered as an Edison Youth Service Corps member.
“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,” said Gail Pawlikowski, who was principal of the high school when Joshi was a student. “Sam had the charisma, the intelligence and the calling to serve. His leadership qualities served him well in classes and all his extracurricular activities.”
Fast forward almost two decades later, Pawlikowski, who now serves as the chief academic officer of secondary schools in the district, served as master of ceremonies at Joshi’s swearing-in ceremony in the auditorium at J.P. Stevens High on Jan. 1.
“Schools often adopt mottos,” she told the audience. “The previous JP principal, Mr. Cedric Richardson, adopted the motto ‘Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve.’ The motto still hangs in the lobby. When I was principal, we adopted Mahatma Ghandi’s quote ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Mayor-elect Sam Joshi has taken these mottos, these challenges, to heart.”
Pawlikowski said Joshi “had wonderful political and government role models while he was growing up,” many of whom were in the audience, including his two mayoral predecessors, Thomas Lankey and Antonia Ricigliano.
“Now Sam will work as hard to serve his community and serve as a role model for our present students,” she said.
Joshi was sworn in by Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, also a graduate of JP Stevens, before his family and friends.
“My family story in Edison is that of so many of my friends and neighbors growing up,” he said. “My parents came here from India 34 years ago without much money with a vision to join a community where they felt they could thrive. They settled here in Edison and 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.”
Now just a few decades later, Joshi continued, “We’re here in this room on this day making history.”
Joshi becomes the first Indian American and youngest in the mayoral role at age 32. He will serve full-time in the role.
The position of mayor was part-time for years until former Mayor Jun Choi took office in 2006. In 2008, the council voted in favor of making the position full time. When Mayor Thomas Lankey took office in 2014, the mayoral position was amended back to part time.
In November 2020, the Township Council discussed and approved amending the position of mayor from a part-time position to a full-time position. The position includes an annual salary of $135,000.
Joshi thanked his parents for the sacrifices they have made, his older sister for her continuous “fierce” support, and his fiancée for making him a better person.
“Growing up in Edison, I gained a true appreciation for the values our community shares, values like diversity and acceptance, which was a must in a school system that consistently felt like as if though you were walking through the United Nations with students, with backgrounds from all over the world,” he said.
In school, he also learned about the roots of Edison.
“In 1954, residents voted to rename our municipality Edison Township after Thomas Alva Edison,” he said. “During his era, we were recognized as a home of innovation, the catalyst of a new lifestyle and the inspiration to defy the impossible. For years, mere thoughts became a reality. The world needed a breakthrough in technology and it happened right here in our hometown.”
Just like the inventor’s breakthrough 145 years ago, Joshi said the township needs another breakthrough of turning visions into actions.
“The first is unity,” he said. “Today, Edison has among the most diverse populations in the U.S. Edison is home to every culture, religion, ethnicity and every economic status. And because of this we have a multitude of different viewpoints and different priorities we must navigate. The demographics of Edison compare like greater America and because of this we’re uniquely positioned to be a catalyst of unity in our society, but it is up to us to bring that change.”
Joshi said there needs to be focus on how communities can come together, learn and appreciate one another moving away from the stagnation and division of the past.
“We have to see the bigger picture,” he said. “We have to move forward united.”
Secondly, Joshi said, government “needs to work for its people.”
“I learned from a very early age how important and how fulfilling public service and government can be,” he said. “I first entered the halls of government at the age of 14, learning up close from people who were on the frontline of service. I saw that local government can make a difference in people’s lives and can deliver progress faster and more urgently than any other level of government if we have the right leaders in place with the vision for the future. With that experience in mind, I can promise to you now, we will set a new standard of excellence in local government, and I will do my best each and every day to run a modern, efficient, honest government that residents can be proud of.”
As mayor, Joshi said he will never give up or stop working for the community.
“Nothing is more important to me than our collective success,” he said. “Every decision my administration will make will prioritize movement of our quality of life. We need to have an Edison we are proud of now and in the future.”
Joshi said he is optimistic about the future of Edison for the first time in decades, noting strong relationships with state, county and federal government officials, including Middlesex County Democratic Chairman Kevin McCabe, Gov. Phil Murphy and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6).
In the coming weeks ahead of his first township address on Feb. 22, Joshi’s administration will begin announcing timelines for goals and making appointments to key positions with the help of the Township Council.
“You deserve nothing less than government that works 24/7 in the best interest of the community and I ask for your continued support and patience while we build towards that goal,” he said, adding he will continue to be “accessible to every member of the community” and is “open to ideas, suggestions and yes even constructive criticism.”
As Ghandi’s quote and the school motto set by Pawlikowski when he was in high school, Joshi said he wishes “for Edison to be the catalyst of unity and good government.”
“Edison: there’s so much work to do so let’s do it together,” he said.
During the ceremony, Margot Harris, Nishith Patel, and John Poyner, who won the three, three-year seats available on the council during the November election, were sworn in to their seats on the council.
Boy Scout Troop 66 presented the colors and led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance; Bishop Nikolaos G. Brown of Ignite Church in Fords led the invocation; and the Edison Police Honor Guard stood in honor.