Lexington’s Indian American Getting Involved Group Holds Seminar on Civic Engagement

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LEXINGTON, MA–Lexington’s Indian American Getting Involved Group, known as iGiG, held its annual seminar on civic engagement at Lexington Community Center on Saturday in Lexington, MA.

The event was co-chaired by Vineeta Kumar and Anil Ahuja and speakers included Suzie Barry, Chairperson of the Board of Selectmen; Joe Pato, Member, Board of Selectmen; and Jim Malloy, General manager of the town of Lexington.

Vineeta Kumar

The seminar started with a welcome note by Vineeta Kumar, TMM (Town Meeting Member) from Precinct 3 and a Community leader. She shared that “as the Getting Involved Group, our objective is to encourage and support civic participation. What we are trying to do here is help fuel that spark of volunteerism you have in you and support your desire to serve through an elected office or an

Narain Bhatia

appointed board/committee.”

She added that the town now has 18 Town Meeting Members and at least 8 Committee and Board members of Indian-American origin, and every year, more people express interest in getting involved.

Narain Bhatia shared that the organization has adopted a new name iGiG (Indian American Getting Involved Group), approved a set of bylaws and elected its first set of officers, since its inception in 2014. Narain was involved in conceptualizing the group in 2014.

Joe Pato

Joe Pato, member of the Board of Selectmen, spoke about Indian-Americans’ contributions in the town and motivated the audience to get engaged. Joe was elected to the Board of Selectmen in 2013 and re-elected in 2016 and served as Chairman of the Board for 2 terms. Previously he was a Town Meeting Member, and a member of the Appropriation Committee. In every issue he has considered in his years serving Lexington, Joe has brought creative problem-solving and calm civility to the table. Joe believes in open, transparent government, broad community involvement, sympathetic decision-making, and respectful closure when it’s time to move on.

Professionally, Joe is a semi-retired research Computer Scientist. He worked for HP for 28 years and is currently a visiting scientist at MIT researching information security and privacy. Joe is passionate about civic engagement and tries to utilize his technical interests to facilitate the process of local government.

Suzie Barry

Suzie Barry, Chairperson, Board of Selectmen of Lexington started with an interactive quiz on town government, followed by a primer on the structure and functions of Lexington town government.

Suzie is a born and raised Lexingtonian. She has been involved in the schools as the Safe Routes to School Coordinator at Estabrook Elementary School; Boy Scouts as the Pack Committee Chair for Pack 137 and the Eagle Scout Ceremony Coordinator for Troop 160 and at her local Church where she currently serves as a Lector. Suzie served in Town Meeting for Precinct 6 and is a past Treasurer of the Town Meeting Members Association. Suzie served as a member of the Town Celebrations Committee for 20 years including several years as Vice-Chair and Chairman and was elected to the Board of Selectmen in a special election in November 2014. She is currently the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen, a role she has held since May of 2016. Suzie’s diverse and innovative town government and community volunteer experience has served Lexington for over 28 years.

Jim Malloy

The third speaker of the day was Jim Malloy, General Manager of the town. Jim spoke about the process of board and committee appointments made by the Town office. Jim acknowledged the gap in efficient posting and search capability of such positions through the town website and other channels and shared that this task would be prioritized.

Malloy started in the Twon Manger role in Lexington in October. He has 30 years of experience managing local government, has Masters Degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado and has worked in 3 states as a Manager, Colorado, New York and Massachusetts. Jim is a Credentialed Manager with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) and has served as the Northeast Regional Vice President for ICMA as well as serving on the MA Municipal Association (MMA) Board of Directors and currently serves as the Chair of the MMA Fiscal Policy Committee.

Anil Ahuja

The keynote speeches were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Anil Ahuja, TMM Precinct 5 and Co-chair of the event. The five panelists were: Dinesh Patel, Hema Bhatt, Sunny Chandra, Pam Joshi and Vinita Verma.

All the panelists shared reasons they ran for an elected position and what motivates them to serve in their positions. There was a question about an issue/article that the panelists would highlight as important or close to their heart. Dinesh Patel highlighted the article about building a Crematorium in Lexington. He said “While this issue is important for the Indian-American community and specifically people who follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, it is equally important for Americans who follow other religions. Cremation has been an increasing trend in our country with more than 50% people opting for it”.

Dr. Dinesh Patel expressed “We saw President George H. W. Bush’s funeral this week, and just like him and many other people, I would like to go through my final rites in my town, where I have lived most of my life.” Therefore this article is important for him.

Dr. Patel is a Town Meeting Member from Precinct 6 and has been a Lexington resident for 44 years. His 3 children’s went to Lexington school system. He has been at Mass General Hospital for 50 years as an Orthopedic surgeon and was former chairman of Board of Registration in Medicine. He has served on many non-profit organizations.

Hema Bhatt is a TMM from Precinct 9 and is also on the Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee. Sunny Chandra has live din Lexington for over 20 years and is a TMM from Precinct. Pam Joshi is a TMM from Precinct   and is also on the Health Board of the town. Vinita Verma was elected to Town Meeting in 2018 from Precinct 6.

After the panel discussion Sanjay Padaki walked the audience through key steps and milestone dates in the election process, leading to the March 4, 2019 election.

Anil Ahuja, concluded the event with a vote of thanks.

This annual event kicks off the process of engaging potential candidates for the town elections in March. This year the team brought equal focus to elected and appointed positions and is hoping that the event motivated another group of Indian Americans to come forward and contribute through civic engagement.

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