Granite Falls Mayor-Elect | Saleem Haroon
has one of the best memories I have ever encountered and the stories of his
past are interesting and amusing.
What I found was a man who is honest, up front and has learned tough lessons throughout his
Haroon, who was born Sheikh Haroon Saleem in Rawal, Pindi, Pakistan over 54 years ago is not exactly who one would imagine to be the Mayor of a city in small town America, but after a heated campaign battle last month, Haroon beat out mayoral incumbent Lyle Romack 61 percent to 35 percent.
was raised the youngest of five children, in a wealthy family and was taught at an early age that hard work and determination are the keys to success.
"As kids, we were very fortunate," he
"We were able to go to really good schools."
family business was in importing and the resale side of glassware, silverware and china.
was only 12 years old his
father's business became financially unstable and he
returned from school to work with his
"We had fallen on hard times, my dad's business took a hit and I started working with my dad instead of finishing college at that time," he
At the age of 20, Haroon
At this time he
took an "internship" position at the Intercontinental Hotel because he
wanted to learn the business.
After working for the Hotel he
decided to take a contract job in Iran where workers were miles from any town and worked in 120 degree heat.
hard work paid off and he
was making decent money, but when the work came to a halt because of political reasons within the country of Iran, there was nothing to do except play cards and gamble.
"I was always a hard worker," Haroon explained. 'But riots started against the Shaw and everything started shutting down.
I lost all of the money I had earned playing cards."
returned home with no money and out of the goodness of a friend's heart who paid for his
bus ticket, he
decided to come to the United States.
sister lived with her
husband in Rhode Island and a good friend from boarding school invited him to come to San Francisco.
After filling out all of the paperwork, all that was left was to find the funds to pay for the trip overseas.
"I got ready to come to the United States, now comes the part of where the money is going to come from," Haroon
After years of working in many restaurants and as a cab driver in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, a first marriage that ended in an immigration office in San Francisco (a very amusing story) Haroon ended up in Western Washington working as a manager at Jack-in-the-Box right after the E.coli outbreaks.
After being asked to leave Jack-in-the-Box he
moved on to Shari's restaurant.
explains that he
would would seven days a week, 17-18 hours a day and that every store he
managed ended up becoming more profitable than before he
took over as manager.
learned that speaking out wasn't always a good thing.
"I have been one of those people, all my life, that when I see something wrong I stand up for what is right," he
"Over the years I've paid my dues."
Fast forward a few years to August 2000 when Haroon
decided to buy the Timberline Café
in Granite Falls.
"I fell in love with this town--I've always wanted to live in a small town," he
"Everything just fell into place."
employs over 20 people, most of them local.
also enjoys hiring teenagers in his
restaurant so he
can help them learn a strong work ethic.
"I want to educate the youth, get them in the work force and teach them a work ethic," Haroon
Six years ago, Haroon
was approached and asked to run for Mayor, he
Four years ago he was asked and again and declined but after helping to start the Granite Falls Concerned Citizens Association (GFCCA) with two past mayors, attending several council meetings and finding out the results of the city's audit, he felt it was time to throw his hat in the ring.
For now, Haroon
is looking forward to taking over as the city's new mayor on Jan. 4 and hopes that the citizens will continue to believe in him as their leader.
"We believe we ran a very effective campaign and we have some great plans for our city and we're going to have fun," he
"Unfortunately there are some elements who have not accepted the public's will."
As for being recognized as one of the Journal's Most Inspiring People of 2009, Haroon's eyes filled with tears.
"I am so honored and very humbled.
Never in my life did I think I would get that honor," he
wife Bushre have an 11-year-old daughter Nida and enjoy their life in Granite Falls.