Ali Taj Wins Election for Artesia City Council

Ali Sajjad Taj, a well-known and prominent figure in the Pakistani-American community, created history on Tuesday when he won the Artesia City Council election trouncing longtime incumbent ‘iconic City Councilman John Lyon’ by less than 1/2 of a percentage point. His victory conveys an inspirational message and could serve as a catalyst for the success of other members of the community that aspire for a political office in mainstream America. His success marks the success of the South Asian community in the Southland.

Taj, a first time candidate for public office, and someone few longtime residents in Artesia had ever heard of less than three months ago, took his grassroots campaign directly to the voters of Artesia by conducting an aggressive effort to “spend time and get to hear what is really on the minds of the residents of Artesia.”

Taj, who is a professional financial consultant to large corporations, is one of the two outside city council challengers in Artesia and Hawaiian Gardens that have reshaped the political landscape here in Southeast Los Angeles County by capturing dramatic wins in Tuesday’s Consolidated Election.

Taj told Hews Media Group-Community Newspapers that he had “walked and canvassed” the entire City of Artesia “at least twice, if not three times.” “The community wants at least one independent voice on the city council.”

Incumbent Mayor Sally Zuniga Flowers and Councilman Victor Manalo also scored reelection wins on Tuesday with Flowers earning top vote. Challenger Melissa Ramosa, who works for a California State Senator and Businessman Manu Patel finished behind Lyon.

Taj is a highly popular Pakistani American. He enjoyed the trust and support of an overwhelming majority of voters. Not all of them were of Pakistani origin. Indeed: the strength of Pakistani supporters was restricted to a miniscule figure of 13 registerd voters of Pakistani descent, and the non-Pakistanis in the constituency overwhelmingly voted for Taj to ensure his victory. The Pakistani American was one of six candidates vying for a seat on the council.

According to a pre-election report by Monica Luhar, Staff Reporter India West “Artesia Council hopeful Ali Sajjad Taj backs small business.” Monica wrote:

Ali Sajjad Taj is vying for a city council seat in Artesia under the campaign slogan, “Going back to basics,” which describes his vision to boost infrastructure and support small business in this diverse city in Southern California.

Pioneer Blvd (in Artesia, California) is centered around small businesses. Many of the business owners are from South India and other parts of the SubContinent. Taj said that he hopes to encourage fast-food restaurants and other small businesses to locate in Artesia to encourage residents to dine and shop in the city. He felt that here is a stark difference between the north and south parts of the city. He wants both sections of the city to share equally in resources, such as street lighting, roads, trees, sidewalks and public safety. “My vision is to have Artesia look and feel aesthetically and infrastructure-wise, the same. If the north part of Artesia has a Ralphs (supermarket), but the south part doesn’t — my goal is to bring revenue through similar business to that area also,” Taj said that $2 million is expected to be allocated to support businesses on Pioneer Blvd.

Besides infrastructure and small business, Taj focused his campaign on public safety, programs for youth and seniors, cutting wasteful government spending and engaging citizens more in government. The city doesn’t have a police station, so crime is handled by a station in Lakewood, Calif., which has contracts with five other cities, including Artesia. Taj hopes to work to establish a substation in Artesia.“We really have to go to Lakewood, not even a nearby city. My goal is to bring a substation. That would really help the citizens of Artesia and help with public safety, increase patrolling and send out a message,” During weekends the Little India area of Artesia is crowded with tourists and customers. Despite newly installed meters, visitors frequently park in residential areas parallel to Pioneer Blvd., angering residents.Taj said that about 40 percent of parking stalls remain unused. He said one solution is to issue parking permits to neighborhood residents.

ABOUT ALI TAJ: Taj has a BA in Economics and Statistics. He completed his Master’s in Public Administration with emphasis in Marketing. In addition, he acquired FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) Licenses Series 4, Series 7, Series 24, Series 51 and Series 66. He has a license for the State of California for Life and Health.

He has been with Financial Services Industry for the last 12 years. During his career he has held several important and key positions with multinational firms like American Express, Ameriprise Financial, Weddell & Reed and T.D. Ameritrade. He has worked as Financial Planner, District Manager, Regional Manager, Managing Principal, and Vice President Positions.

A defining moment in Ali Sajjad’s career was when he began his first leadership role as District Manager with American Express in 2002 and later as Vice President for Ameriprise Financial. It was then that he realized that it wasn’t about him and what he could do. What really mattered was how he could influence his team and bring about results through others. His region continued to rank top in the country under his strong leadership. He has successfully turned around the Central California Region for Weddell & Reed in a short time as the Managing Principal. He managed, an asset size, close to a billion dollars at TD Ameritrade and advised his clients.

Ali Sajjad continues to be a proponent of mentoring relationships and has been known to take on anywhere from two to ten mentees at any given time. He also still maintains a mentor himself at all times, as he believes you should never stop developing yourself as a leader. Also an avid reader, he enjoys everything from crime dramas to historical fiction to biographies. Among his favorites are books about Harry Truman who once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Despite his unquestioned success, Taj remains humble about his accomplishments. He maintains that it’s important to keep the right perspective, something he has strived to instill in his son. He often reminds him, as well as his colleagues, of a story from one of his favorite books, “The Noticer”. The author says that life is a lot like a game of Monopoly: you may own Boardwalk and Park Place with two hotels but, when the game is over, all those pieces are going back in the box.

Without doubt, it was his hard work and desire to excel that got him off to a great start in his career. It was his vision and courage that moved him up the ladder.

Today, it is his warmth, passion, strong leadership skills and a profound financial planning background that will make him a valuable resource for the residents of the City of Artesia.

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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