Clifton Park’s Manoj Ajmera credited with NYS Best Tasting Water event
- By Glenn Griffith firstname.lastname@example.org @CNWeekly on Twitter
- Jul 26, 2017 Updated Jul 26, 2017
CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. >> This year, as it has done for the last 30 years, officials with the state Health Department will award one community the title of Best Tasting Water in New York State at the New York State Fair in Syracuse.
Fair goers will sample water from communities across the state that have placed first or second in localized regional contests and then vote on which one tastes the best.
It may surprise many but the man who came up with the idea for the contest is a 40-year resident of Clifton Park who is originally from India. Though he retired from the state Department of Health in 2002, Manoj Ajmera, the contest creator, still plays an important role in the local heats as well as the finals.
Ajmera came to the U.S. to complete his education and wound up staying and making an impact on his community and state; it is the story of the U.S.
“I came here for a graduate degree in environmental engineering,” he said. “The plan was to stay four or five years and then go back to Mumbai and join the family business of construction and engineering.”
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1965 he took a job with a private company in Silicon Valley, Calif. It was long before the area became home to the tech industry and he chuckles at the thought of his missed opportunity in real estate.
“My wife Rita and I stayed there a year and then we moved back East,” he said. “The plan was still to go back to India and the East coast was an easier trip to make. Had we stayed out there and bought some property we’d be well off today.”
To get experience in the public sector he took a job with the New York State Department of Health. With his degree in hand and experience in the private and public sectors he was all set to return home. However, when he went back for a visit, the business just didn’t hold the attraction it once had. He decided to remain with DOH as a senior sanitary engineer. He was there 36 years.
“My job was to make sure all the water plants had quality water, monitor the water supply and make sure they met the standards and regulations of the state and the EPA,” he said.
His love of public relations and his people skills helped sell the directors at DOH on the idea of a best drinking water taste contest for the Capital Region. The year was 1986.
“The response was overwhelming so I suggested we go state-wide. It’s still going strong,” he said. “I don’t do as much as I once did but I’m still the coordinator state-wide. I have always enjoyed it.”
As his time in the Capital Region increased Ajmera took on another role: Chairman of the Festival of Nations. The organization, which was established in 1971, holds a huge event once a year in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. Ajmera joined the organization as a member of an Indian dance group. He’s been the chairman for 31 non-consecutive years.
“I was a young guy back then who knew the dances so I joined,” he said. “What’s so wonderful about the Festival of Nations is how we can work together in harmony even though our backgrounds, cultures, and values are different. It’s a little United Nations with no veto power.”
He describes the event as a great way for residents and children to learn about new cultures as well as a way for families who have immigrated to the country to keep their cultures alive.
“If you want to learn about many different cultures without ever leaving the Capital District this is the way to do it,” he said. “Come to the Festival of Nations. The entertainment is very good and the food is excellent.”
Ajmera is also a founding member of the Tri-City India Association where he served as its president and currently serves on the board as well as on the board of the Hindu Cultural Center in Albany.
“Believe it or not in the mid-1960s there were only 20-25 families of Indian origin in the Capital Region. Now there are several thousand,” he said.
During his years in the area he also served on the selection committee of the Albany Tulip Queen and is a 50-year member of the Rotary Club of Albany.
The Saratoga County Water Tasting Contest was held Tuesday in Malta. The winner will compete at the regional contest at the Aug. 3 Alive at Five concert in Albany.
July 28, 2016 – Department of Environmental Protection Announces NYC Tap Water Wins Regional Taste Test Competition (NYC Environmental Protection)
May 5, 2016 – Green Island water tops at the tap (WRGB Albany)
May 5, 2016 – Tasters: Green Island’s water is best (Times Union – Albany)
May 5, 2016 – No Three-peat in Tap Water Taste Test (Albany County)
2016 Tap Water Taste Contest Winners