Judge by “Merit” and not “Skin Color” says Missouri State Treasurer Vivek Malek  

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Vivek Malek, 48th Treasurer of the State of Missouri. PHOTO: Office of the Treasurer of the State of Missouri

Vivek Malek, Missouri’s 48th State Treasurer, who made history on January 17, 2023, by becoming the first person of Indian-origin, and the first non-white person, to hold a statewide office, attributes his success to three important lessons “vision, hard work, and determination” taught by his late father Mohinder Singh Malek.

Missouri’s Governor, Mike Parson, appointed Malek as the Treasurer backfilling Scott Fitzpatrick, who served in the role from 2019-2023, after he got elected as the State Auditor.

In an exclusive interview with News India Times on March 7, Malek, said, “I am proud to be the first person of Indian-origin in the State to hold an elected office even though I was appointed. However, I’ll be running for a statewide position come 2024 for the same Treasurer’s position,” while adding this was long overdue to have a first non-white person in office and that he strongly believes “merit” and not the “skin color” should be the pre-requisite for qualification.

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Quoting Reverend Martin Luther King, “I should not be judged by the color of my skin but the content of my character,” Malek emphasized “I have a task in front of me in the next few years to prove myself that I was truly deserving… not because I was a brown guy or a colored person but based on my merit.”

About creating a record by returning $1.7 million in unclaimed property to Missourians in the first three days of taking charge, Malek said the State of Missouri and the Treasurer’s Office has $1.3 billion in unclaimed property, and his goal is to ensure Missourians get as much as possible during his term. “We’ve always talked about government taking your money. I want to establish that the Treasurer’s Office is there to return your money, to give back what is owed to you,” he added.

As a strong fiscal conservative who believes in three P’s (Protect taxpayers money, Provide the opportunity for growth, and Promote the promise of America), Malek noted that the concept of savings has always been important for him, not only while growing up in India, but also as an international student in the US, and later while establishing his business. He is critical that the Biden administration is “spending without any control,” and underscored that his fiscal conservatism comes from a central belief that “we cannot go beyond what our limits are.”

About providing opportunity, Malek said his office provides key resources including the MO ABLE program, that caters to those with special needs, the MOScholars program that offers educational choices to parents in educating their kids, the MOST program to assist families pay for K-through-12 tuition at public and private institutions, and MOBuck$ program that offers small business loans at a lower interest rate.

Drawing upon his immigrant experience in US, he said “I do not think any other country, other than America, provides that kind of opportunity for you – if you are dedicated to get an education, work hard, and be focused, the sky can be the limit…” while emphasizing that he wants to inspire the next generation.

When asked about the immigration system in this country, Malek, an immigration attorney, said, “The immigration system is definitely broken. There needs to be an overhaul of the immigration system. There needs to be a bipartisan lead to that which can solve this problem,” adding, “we have been failing our legal immigrants, we have been failing everybody who looks toward America for hope and as a land of opportunity.”

According to him there is a need to focus on legal immigration and keeping the borders secured. About welcoming and retaining international students who come to this country, he noted, “Right now, the way it is, you come in as an international student, you finish your school, and there’s no way you could stay here unless you get through the H1B lottery. That’s why I think we need to readdress and make our laws much more welcoming for legal immigrants.”

Born in Rohtak, Haryana, Malek came to US to study MBA at Southeast Missouri State University in 2001, after finishing his undergraduate and law degrees from Maharshi Dayanand University. He later received his Master’s in Law from the University of Illinois College of Law.

Speaking of his journey from an international student to State Treasurer, he said “I am very proud and happy about my American journey. I touched thousands of lives as an attorney making a positive difference for them. However, I knew if I want to make a bigger impact I need to be in public service.”

Vivek Malek with his family members on January 17, 2023, at the Missouri House Chamber in Jefferson City, Missouri. PHOTO: Office of the Treasurer of the State of Missouri

Malek and his wife Riju Malek have been married for 18 years. Their daughter, 12-year-old Naija is a sixth grader, their 10-year-old son Viraj is a fourth grader and a budding cricket player, and their five-year old daughter Myra is in kindergarten.

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