Sikh business woman made California State University trustee

Raji Brar is COO of her family’s Countryside Market & Restaurants and the first Sikh woman elected to a California city council


By Asia Samachar | United States |

Kern County businesswoman and community leader Raji Brar has been appointed to the California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees, a powerful leadership post that gives the Central Valley a seat at the table at the nation’s largest system of public higher education.

The chief operations officer of a major local the family-owned business also holds the distinction of being the first Sikh woman elected to a city council in Raji Brar is COO of her family’s Countryside Market & Restaurants and the first Sikh woman elected to a California city council

The CSU Bakersfield alumni was appointed by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

“The Valley has to be part of the conversation,” Brar was quoted in a report published at CSU Bakersfield website. “We can’t get 10 or 15 years down the road and realize we should have focused more on the Central Valley. It’s important that the other trustees hear the stories of Kern County students, what we face. I’m grateful the governor understands that we need to be included.”

CSU Bakersfield President Lynnette Zelezny praised the governor’s selection of Brar, who serves as president of the CSU Bakersfield Foundation Board.

“There is a light inside Raji that she shares with our entire community through her many acts of kindness and tireless commitment to public service,” Zelezny was quoted in the same report. “She will bring a unique perspective to the Board of Trustees, and this Valley that we love will be well-represented through her voice. This is a proud moment for the Roadrunner family and our region.”

Owner and chief operations officer of Countryside Corporation since 2003, Brar also holds many leadership positions in Kern County and is co-founder of the Bakersfield Sikh Women’s Association. She earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and a master of science degree in health care from CSUB and is a member of the CSUB Alumni Hall of Fame.

A first-generation American, Brar is the oldest child of two Punjabi Sikhs from northern India who came to the United States with nothing in the mid-1970s and first raised their children in Central Valley farm labor camps. Her mother only got as far as the fifth grade and can’t read or write, according to Brar.

Her father started their company with a single gas station at Seventh Standard Road and North Chester Avenue in Oildale, and with his current wife, Gurmit Jhaj, children and in-laws has now grown to include nine gas stations, seven Taco Bells, 10 Subways, a construction company and a retail developer. It’s also gotten into the car wash business in Taft.

They employ more than 450 people in Kern County, according to a report that appeared in 2020.

The report also shared Brar’s passion for CSU and education.

“They said, ‘What’s the point? You’re a girl,'” Brar said, when talking about her mother’s background. “My mom felt so limited in her opportunities. She worked in the fields and at Burger King, which is the only fast-food place she could work because you would say the orders into the mic, and not have to read the screen. She would tell me in Punjabi all the time, ‘You have to get an education. It’s your life partner, it will never leave you and no one can take it from you.’”

Brar attended CSUB because it was close to home, affordable and accessible, a top priority for the new trustee.

Raji Brar (front, middle) and her family at the grand opening of Countryside at the Countryside Village. Her mother Gurmit Jhaj (front row, 4th from left) and father Rupinder Jhaj (front row, right).


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