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Montgomery Township to Name a New Mayor, First Sikh Woman to Lead a New Jersey Municipality?

By Barbara A. Preston | Posted December 27, 2023 |


Montgomery has become known for supporting women in office, and for promoting leaders who are trailblazers. Montgomery Mayor Devra Keenan will pass the baton to a new mayor during the Montgomery Township reorganization meeting on January 4 at 7:30 pm. Township Committee is expected to elect committee member Neena Singh to the position of mayor. The 22-year resident of the township would become the first Sikh woman to be named mayor in the state of New Jersey.


NJ Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D) and Montgomery Mayor Neena Singh

From left: NJ Assemblywoman Sadaf Jaffer (D), a Montgomery resident and former mayor, with Neena Singh (D), who is expected to be named mayor in January.

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Who Is Neena Singh?


* Singh emigrated from Canada in 1995. She’s lived in Montgomery for two-plus decades.


* She is a devoted mother who spent 19 years selling real estate for Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty.


* She is fluent in Hindi and Punjabi.

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Singh earned her bachelor’s degree in political science and English Literature from Kurukshetra University in Haryana, India. She was appointed to the Montgomery Township Committee in 2021 to fill the unexpired term of Committeewoman Catherine Gural (D). Singh has served on the committee for three years, most recently as deputy mayor.


She has been described as “an advocate for equity, equality, and inclusion” by Poet Nethra Srimal, a Montgomery High School junior and youth action board member.


Why Run for Office

Singh has told The Montgomery News that it is important to her “to make sure everybody has a seat at the table.”


“I am the social equity ambassador at my workplace. I am also passionate about woman empowerment. That is one of my major priorities. I have lived my life making sure girls know they are equals,” she said.


Follows a Strong Montgomery Tradition

In 2007, Montgomery Township Committee elected the first Asian American woman to become mayor of a New Jersey town — Cecilia Xie Birge.


Cecilia Xie Birge

Cecilia Xie Birge


“Birge grew up in Beijing, China. She spent her early childhood in labor camps during the Cultural Revolution with her Western-educated parents, who were detained by the Chinese Communist Party,” according to The Zombie Fridge Journal. She took part in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. She immigrated to America, studied, and worked as a Wall Street bond analyst. She is now principal of Princeton High School.


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Next, Montgomery Township Committee elected the first Muslim woman to serve as a mayor in the United States—Sadaf Jaffer. She served two one-year terms as mayor of Montgomery Township, beginning in January 2019.


Jaffer was first elected to Township Committee in 2017, then to the New Jersey General Assembly. She did not seek re-election in 2023 due to personal reasons.


Jaffer is now the leader of the Montgomery Democratic Organization.


As a trailblazer, Jaffer has the following advice to Neena Singh, "As the mayor, you are the person everyone goes to when there is a problem, and that will be your role. You will have to assess the situation and try to find a solution.


"I think, my advice to any elected official would be to seek advice from experts, whether its professional staff members in Montgomery Township or colleagues and elected officials, or experts in the field. And, just do the best you can, and be creative.


"Sometimes, in government, things have always been done a certain way, so it's hard to think out of the box," Jaffer says. "But, I would say some of the best successes we've had in Montgomery have been creative—whether it was the design for the new municipal complex or finding solutions during COVID."


Jaffer concluded that she wants to thank Singh for serving her community, because "it's a tough job." ■

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