SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- The last of our TAPintoSPF Scotch Plains Council candidate profiles: Five Questions With... Sonali Dalvi.

Name: Sonali Dalvi
Current Occupation: Architectural Designer, LEED AP-Building Design & Construction, Facility Analyst
Education: Bachelor of Architecture, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)- Accredited Professional (AP) 
Family: Swapnil my husband is an IT Engineer, Music lover with good sensor of humor. My two daughters are in Scotch Plains schools.
# Years Living in Scotch Plains: 6yrs (since 2012)


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Why are you running for Town Council?

Successfully implementing Downtown Redevelopment will be the most important challenge for the new town council.  If done right, not only will we have a vibrant downtown helping to meet our Affordable Housing settlement, but also it could potentially create new ratables to help take the tax load off the residential tax payer. Also, I want to use my LEED expertise to maximize the energy and environmental design of our new downtown.

I want to see our downtown as a hub for our residents and visitors. I would like to see architecture layout that will attract more people to meet each other and build a stronger community. My vision is for a downtown that will provide more jobs and further opportunities for women entrepreneurs. I want to use the redevelopment of downtown to create bonds, face-to-face connections, and life-lasting friendships that will entertain our children more than their TV, laptops, and video games.

Tell us about your career and how your work and life experience will be beneficial in your role as a Councilperson (if elected)

My work experience includes being a licensed architect in India. In the United States, I have been a Quality Manager for Special Inspections and an Architectural Designer for several New Jersey architectural firms. 

Our town government has 14 departments. My education and work experience will allow me to set policies and guidelines to ensure the efficient operation of these departments especially for Building, Engineering, Environmental, Planning Board, and Zoning Board of Adjustment. Ensuring that the town government is efficiently using the tax dollars of our over taxed residents is a high priority for me. As I have already mentioned, my experience will be important to the downtown redevelopment.

What are the issues that you think are most important in Scotch Plains?

High taxes are one of the most important issues of the residents of the Scotch Plains. Also, the parking in the downtown, affordable housing development, health & safety of residents, and senior services have to be considered too. The downtown redevelopment would bring in more businesses that will bring in revenues. Parking garages with proper design and structure can resolve the parking issues of the downtown. Smart building designs like creating spaces within the area to interact, walkable paths, benches, gazebos, green spaces, open workshop areas, cafes, small business vendors, kids play zone, library, community center etc. can bring in smart growth to the town. This would attract residents to frequent the downtown leading to more interaction amongst our citizens.  All this including adding more family activities and events will help create positive experiences leading to better health and wellbeing for our residents. These positive interactions will automatically create safe environments. I believe that to bring in any positive change we need a positive mindset and the journey of progress begins!! 

Golden agers are our most experienced and knowledgeable residents. Interacting with them will give us highlights of our historic town. Let us provide better programming and services to benefit them. Finally, I want to make a difference to enhance overall quality and values of the community.

What should people know about you that they might not know already?

My husband and I immigrated to the United States in 2006 to build a better life in America. We became citizens in January of this year. We have two children in the School System. As we have settled in our new country, I wanted to give back and serve the community. As an architectural designer, I thought my skills would be helpful to the downtown redevelopment committee, so I volunteered in early 2017. In January of this year, the town council appointed me to the Planning Board. 

I strongly believe in 3 “H”: Humanity, Honesty & Honor. As its said in my religion book of life management; GEETA -- Believe in yourself to do good karma for humanity/community, be honest and ethical; do not expect rewards for what you do. Just do good karma!

As an example, I was a Special Inspector reporting to NY-Port Authority at an active building construction site. A women came to me and questioned: “Why are you so strict on checking and reporting? Anyone can push you down in this hole!” I calmly replied: “I’m doing my job right so that in future the people who will be coming in this building will be safe!” She patted me on my back and went away. Later I found out she was the Port Authority safety officer for the site!

 I’ve have a diploma in Indian classical dance. I started learning this at the age of 6 years. I have won first prize at “Zalak”- A competition held for all the Indian dance academies of New Jersey. I’m a very good cook, artist/painter, and enjoy tattooing with henna. I love Yoga too!

What else would you like to say?

Never stop learning!! Be curious!!  Each human being has a good special skill. Find it and achieve it.