By Josh LaBella
Roman Khondker said his being raised in Bangladesh influenced him to pursue a life of public service.
Just 20 years old, Khondker’s said his experience as a child gave him a great appreciation for the freedoms he has in the United States.
“Everyone from my father’s side was very, very powerful. They were all politicians,” said Khondker, reflecting on his time in Bangladesh. “Everyone on my mother’s side was very rich. They were all rich men and women. To simplify it, my father’s side grew overly jealous of the wealth that my mother’s side had.”
Khondker said his father’s family eventually went on a “rampage” and started killing off members of his mother’s family. He and his mother were forced to flee. Over the next years, they lived in India, Nepal and Pakistan. Khondker said when they returned to Bangladesh, he had to use a fake name to ensure his safety.
“At that point, I was 7,” said Khondker. “From 7 to 10 I lived in Bangladesh again – hiding in different places throughout the years.”
The West Haven resident said is was a scary time for him but his mother always did her best to make him feel safe. He added he owes all he has to her. In 2010, Roman and his mother were granted visas to come to the United States.
“For me, that was the happiest day of my life. Up until the plane took off, we we’re still worried that the government officials there might stop us and take us to be killed,” said Khondker. “In August of 2010, as soon as the flight took off, my mom let out a sigh of relief. I knew from then on that I wanted to serve the public of the world.”
Roman said he greatly appreciates the freedoms and opportunities granted in the US. He added that his faith as a Muslim has been a cornerstone in making him the man he is today. He said he was taught to love everyone and instilled with a desire to help others.
He said his mother eventually married his stepfather, who has been a positive influence on his life. They moved around a lot before settling in West Haven when his stepfather got a hob at the VA hospital. He was in eighth grade.
Roman contacted Dave Riccio during Riccio’s run for mayor and asked about getting involved in the town Republican Party. He said he was drawn to the party because of their belief in small government and individual liberties.
“I joined the RTC shortly after turning 18. By January of 2018, I decided I wanted to run for office,” he said. “I want expand my ability to serve the people.”
Khondker ran in the Republican primaries for state representative. He ended up losing to Richard DePalma but joined his campaign after to help out.
After that election, Khondker was appointed by Mayor Nancy Rossi to the Community Development Administration, where they worked to give block grants to those in need. He said he believes he was the first Muslim to be appointed to a board in West Haven’s history.
“A month after that I was appoint to the state Commission of Equity and Opportunity,” said Khondker, adding he was appointed by Gov. Ned Lamont. He said their job will be to review bills and ensure they have a positive effect on everyone. Their first meeting is later this month.
Khondker ran for city treasurer this past election, but soon dropped out when he decided it was more important to focus on his studies and the state commission. He is about to start his second semester at the University of Rhode Island where he is studying ocean engineering and business.
“I also got involved with the Rhode Island GOP,” said Khondker. “I am the social media director for the Trump 2020 campaign for Rhode Island. I’ll be going from college to college giving speeches and registering voters.”
Khondker admits he has a full plate. He said he does not know where his future will take him but he believes in going with the flow, rolling with the punches and seeing where the world takes him.
“The worlds been really good to me,” said Khondker. “So, I am going to see if I can be good back.”