Saud Anwar, mayor-elect of South Windsor and a physician, sat down with Where We Live to talk about his faith, his vision for the town, and how he plans to juggle his busy schedule. Anwar is a Muslim native of Pakistan who came to Connecticut via Illinois to study medicine at Yale.
On being the first Muslim mayor in the state:
Anwar said that although his faith is important because it shapes his values, he is focused on his new responsibilities. "The fact that I am a mayor who is of Muslim faith helps the children who are in our communities in Connecticut or beyond who at times feel they are bullied or disenfranchised...when they are hearing on radio or television about their faith," he said. "This would hopefully allow them to recognize that the people who are trying to paint them with a broad brush do not necessarily represent true America."
Dr. Anwar has joined WNPR in the past to talk about issues around his faith and politics in the Middle East. He said he uses social media to interact with people all over the world. "Via Facebook, I have friends from all parts of the world, with a significant proportion who are out of Pakistan as well," he said. Anwar said the message the Pakistani community is receiving is that America is a place that does not respect the Muslim faith. "Now they have a very clear message that somebody they know is actually elected by the American people, and is representing the community." He said if there is time, he'll continue to engage in diplomacy.
On the challenges in South Windsor:
Dr. Anwar says the challenges in his town are similar to those of many other towns in the state. "We have an infrastructure which is slowly not as strong as it was, and it's slowly degrading like any other town in Connecticut," he said. "We need to make sure we invest in the infrastructure, but at the same time, we have to do it in a way that we don’t burden the taxpayers more."
He's also concerned about education, pension, and health care costs. Giving raises, he said, is not sustainable. "We need to recognize that every time there is a half percent, one percent or so, raise to anyone’s salary, that is going to be coming out of the pockets of our seniors or the people in our communities that are on a fixed income, who are making very, very difficult choices, to the point of making a choice between being able to afford their medicine or eating." He said the town needs to be more business friendly, and that there needs to be a broader strategy and a better public transportation infrastructure.
On what he'll tackle first as mayor of South Windsor:
Saud Anwar said his first step will be to unify the town. The town is divided, he said, not only across political boundaries, but across ethnic and demographic boundaries as well. "One of the main issues that we need to recognize [is] that we are all in it together," he said. "This is our home. This is our community. We are going to do whatever it takes to stay together, and only together we’ll be able to address all the issues that we have to." Anwar said that his job as a physician has taught him to be organized and to work with a team, all of which he plans to use in his new position.
Listen to the full audio: