ndian Americans Steve Rao and Satish Garimella were officially sworn in to the Morrisville, N.C., City Council earlier in December with the former also being elected as mayor pro tempore. Rao, who is perhaps the first Indian American elected to office in North Carolina’s Triangle region, had been considering a move to run for lieutenant governor, but decided to remain on for the duration of his council term that ends in 2017.
With a 4-to-3 private vote in favor of Rao, the City Council elected the Indian American sales executive to serve in Mayor Mark Stohlman’s stead should he be out of town or incapacitated. Later, in a public vote, the council confirmed Rao to the seat by 6-1. “I assure the council I will give it my all every day,” Rao said at the meeting, thanking Stohlman and the entire council for the appointment. Rao continued by praising the council for its work in getting many projects done.
Michael Schlink, who was also sworn in with Liz Johnson, spoke highly of Rao, who has never missed a council meeting in his time in office. “I think you’ve continued to bring officials and business leaders to the table to help residents in Morrisville,” he said at the meeting.
A sales executive for tech company Alphanumeric Systems, Rao has also helped found a number of India-focused groups including TiE and the N.C. Indian Political Action Committee, and is also a founding member of the Morrisville Innovation Foundation and the HOTTovation program to help entrepreneurs launch their business ideas.
A graduate of Emory University, earning his B.A. in political science and his J.D. from the West Virginia University College of Law, Rao was elected to office in 2011 and re-elected in 2013.
After edging out Vicki Scroggins-Johnson for the mayor pro tem seat, Rao still said he will need her help on the council. Garimella takes over for Kris Gardner, who did not run for re-election in November after claiming the then-empty seat a year ago.
The Indian American was sworn in by Stohlman on the Bhagavad Gita in lieu of the Bible, and was accompanied by his wife, son, parents and founder of the local Hindu Society of North Carolina Gangadhar Sharma.
“This is really a humbling experience for me, honestly,” said the Mumbai-born Garimella at the Dec. 8 council meeting. “I promise that I will give this honor my very best.” Gardner, who was praised for his work during his time as councilman, wished Garimella well as the Indian American takes over his seat. Garimella, who is a principal technical architect at AT&T, earned his bachelor’s degree in electronics from the University of Mumbai and his M.S. in computer science from the University of Tulsa.