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Indian Americans are considered the “model minority” but one arena where we have fallen short is in civic participation.

One exception to that is Mahesh Nihalani.

Nihalani has spent less than a decade in Cupertino, but in that short time he has taken his civic responsibilities towards his adopted city so seriously that it would be the rare resident of Cupertino who is not familiar with the man and his achievements.

An active member of the local Chamber of Commerce, Nihalani is best remembered for initiating and organizing the annual Diwali: Festival of Lights celebration in Cupertino (the festival is in its 7th year running) and his role in encouraging the development of cricket for the youth of the city and the larger Bay Area.

Nihalani, who has received several awards from the city for his service to the community, including Chamber Citizen of the Year(2007) and Rotarian of the year(2009) now wishes to play a bigger part in easing the city through the recession and helping its future development by becoming a member of the Cupertino city council. Amazingly enough, despite Cupertino’s affluent and sizeable Indian American community, Nihalani will be, if elected, the first Indian American on the council.

His message is simple: Keep jobs in Cupertino. His experience as a small business owner and his ties to the community have given him a keen sense of what the needs of his constituents are. “Building and running a small business teaches you fiscal responsibility,” he explains. He adds. “My vision for Cupertino includes strong support of public safety, balanced and smart growth with an emphasis on affordable housing, more open space, reduced traffic congestion at schools, focus on youth and senior services, and a green and clean city.” Nihalani’s kids studied in Cupertino public schools and that has given him an insight into the school system as well.

Nihalani’s long and impressive track record of community development has earned him the endorsement of current council member Dolly Sandoval and Mayor Orrin Mahoney. The San Jose Mercury News also supports his candidacy, saying, “Nihalani’s personable style is a breath of fresh air in Cupertino politics. His work to integrate the growing Indo-American population into the community is inspirational, and he has a well-deserved reputation for effectiveness in working with other leaders.”

Cupertino city council elections are on November 3, 2009. The other candidates are Barry Chang, Orrin Mahoney, Daniel Nguyen, Darcy Paul, Marty Miller, and Mark Santoro. More information about the candidates is available at