Second turbaned Sikh becomes head of US city council

“I can’t think of a Sikh guy getting elected in many other communities,” Huja said....

SSHuja (226K)
Satyendra Singh Huja (photo:

After a turbaned Sikh became the president of Hoboken, New Jersey’s city council, the City Council in Charlottesville, Virginia has voted in longtime resident and city planner Satyendra Singh Huja as their mayor for the next two years. This is another ground-breaking accomplishment for Sikh Americans, whose acceptance in this country has often been challenged by those ignorant of our physical appearance and articles of faith.

When he retired from his position in City Hall in 2004, Satyendra Singh described some of the challenges he faced working in city planning for Charlottesville:

Like millions of members of the Sikh religion, Huja keeps his hair uncut and wrapped inside a turban. To this small southern town, he brought a distinctive appearance– and some distinctive ideas.

Less than a year into the job, he told Charlottesville that it should remove cars from the very heart of Main Street. No sooner had the Downtown Mall opened in 1976 than he oversaw a massive survey of historic structures– and soon unveiled a preservation ordinance that targeted 97 specific buildings, an act that inflamed some property owners by mandating what they could do to their buildings. Before long, “the urban turban” was one of the nicer things people were calling him.

“I used to dread going down Main Street,” says Huja. “People were telling me to go back to India. I was ready to be fired every six months.”

Any yet, he wasn’t. Instead, 30 years later, he’s been elected by his peers as Mayor of Charlottesville, a small American town but also a historic one: Charlottesville is the hometown of American founding father Thomas Jefferson and nearby that of James Madison. The symbolism is two-fold for Sikhs and for America, in that such a person is able to reach the position he has, maintaining his religious articles of faith, in a place that had a role in the founding of this country.


Satyendra Singh Huja, Mayor of Charlottesville, VA, in his own words

After his election to the position of Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia by his fellow city councilors, Satyendra Singh Huja reflects:

“I can’t think of a Sikh guy getting elected in many other communities,” Huja said. “There aren’t many Sikhs in Charlottesville… So I obviously didn’t get elected because of my religion. I got elected because I could be of service.”

This is an important learning. There is an authenticity in this Sikh man who performed his job for decades in service to his community. He wasn’t elected as a city councilor and then as mayor because he was the only visible Sikh on the ballot, but instead for the quality and tenure of his service to his town. Certainly, his religious beliefs would have provided him personal motivation, but it was his unapologetic vision and work ethic that led to this achievement.




SSHuja1 (38K)Mr. Huja is the President of Community Planning Associates, focusing on planning, design, development, and management consulting. He was elected to the Charlottesville city council for a four year term ending in 2011.

He was Director of Strategic Planning for the City of Charlottesville from 1998 to 2004. Prior to that he was Director of Planning and Community Development for the City of Charlottesville for 25 years.

His experiences are in the area of Downtown Revitalization, Housing, Historic Preservation, Transportation Planning, Art and Culture Activities, and Neighborhood Revitalization.

He has received “Honor – from the Virginia Society of American Institute of Architects” , recognition from PEW Foundation for downtown revitalization, and special recognition award from Piedmont Council for the Arts for his outstanding contribution and support for the arts. He also has been a consultant to the City of Pleven, Bulgaria for Economic Development and Tourism Marketing.

Mr. Huja is also adjunct faculty at the University of Virginia, in the School of Architecture and teaches Urban Planning Courses on a regular basis. Mr. Huja is a member of the American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planners. He received his Maters Degree in Urban Planning from Michigan State University.

Mr. Huja can be contacted at :
1502 Holly road, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22901, U.S.A.
[email protected]


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