'I Can't Do This on My Own,' Says Indian-American Liaison
Jigar Shah said building stronger ties between Parsippany government and people of Indian descent will take a community effort.
Who is Parsippany-Troy Hills' official liaison to the township's Indian-American community?
Some know Jigar Shah as a father, uncle and businessman. Many know him as a hardworking volunteer for the local Republican Party. Still others recall a bit of scandal: Shah was named in allegations regarding possible—but never proven—absentee voter fraud during the 2011 GOP primary.
He won't say much about that.
"Let’s set the record straight," said Shah. "I was never investigated for anything. People who say otherwise are not being truthful."
Speaking of his new volunteer position for the town, the 55-year-old is much more vocal, sharing his excitement to serve as a link between Mayor James Barberio's administration and Parsippany's burgeoning Indian-American population. His new job is a people-focused job, and as such, Shah agreed to talk with Patch and introduce himself to his neighbors.
Tell us about your background.
I came to Parsippany in 1974, at the age of 16. I left for a brief time to attend Montclair State University and came back to Parsippany afterwards. Then I opened up my Indian retail grocery, import/export, and wholesale distribution businesses. At the peak of my businesses, I owned two Indian retail grocery stores and was distributing Indian groceries nationwide. I ended up selling these businesses in late 2001 to spend more time with my children.
Currently, I am the principal of our family business, Veerprabhu Export House, based in Mumbai, India. My brother and I export Indian food products to importers worldwide.
Why does the Indian-American community need a liaison?
The Indian-American community is the fastest growing and second largest cultural community in town. We contribute so much to Parsippany, but never had a voice in Town Hall. I’m happy the mayor made this decision to appoint a special liaison for the Indian-American community in town.
What are your goals in the position?
My goals are to be a direct connect for all Indian-Americans throughout Parsippany who have any concerns/issues/problems they are seeking to resolve. I plan on achieving these goals by working hard, making sure I make the time to speak to every Indian-American family in Parsippany.
That's a big job. How do you plan to get into people's doors?
I have great relationships with all the Indian temples in town and all the small business owners. I look forward to working with everyone to help bridge the culture—I can’t do this on my own. This opportunity is not just about me, it’s about all of us.
Are you being paid for the job?
No. I am volunteering.
What makes you the best person for the job?
To be honest, there are probably many qualified individuals for this job. However, I think the mayor chose me because I am nonjudgmental and I have a desire to help people. In addition I have great relationships with people of both cultures. Many people remember my Indian grocery business. Over the years I built up relationships with many families of both cultures. We had nearly 200 people come to the proclamation event. Out of the 200 people, at least 100 of them if not more I’ve known for more than 20 years on a personal level.
I’m just excited to help out Parsippany and the Indian-American community.