JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Treasurer Vivek Malek officially became Missouri’s first non-white state officeholder Tuesday.

Malek’s swearing in as the state’s chief financial officer, a historic moment for Missouri. 

“This is the American dream,” Vivek said. 

He will be asked with managing the state’s annual revenues, investments and will sit on various boards and commissions. Currently, Missouri has a surplus of roughly $6 billion. 

The 45-year-old attorney from the St. Louis suburb of Wildwood took the oath of office surrounded by family and at least 200 supporters. He’s an immigrant from northern India. He came to the Show-Me State more than 20 years ago for college. Malek received his master’s degree from Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) where he later served on the Board of Governors. 

“At SEMO, I recorded my teachers’ lectures on a Panasonic recorded, listening to these lectures on my headphones, over and over, helped me become more fluent in English,” Malek said during his speech. 

He said when he arrived in Missouri in August 2001, he only had $300 in his pocket. Malek said he then took a graduate assistant position at SEMO to help pay for his tuition. 

Malek pledged to safeguard taxpayer dollars, promote Missouri’s state-run savings programs, and “promote the promise of America” in his new role.

“As your state treasurer, I’ll stand up for Missourians to ensure you’re able to realize your God-given potential,” he said.

After becoming an American citizen, he became an immigration attorney in St. Louis. 

“I think this is a proud moment for Missourians, for everybody, for Americans and especially for people who have migrated to this country and have made this country as their home,” Malek said. 

Republican Gov. Mike Parson appointed Malek to replace Scott Fitzpatrick, who was elected state auditor last year.

Parson said immigrants are expected to “work hard and prosper.”

“That’s exactly what Vivek done,” Parson told a crowd gathered in the state House chamber. “He gave a great example for everyone in this room today of what you can do and what this country gives you an opportunity to do.”

This is the fifth open statewide elected seat that Parson has filled with an appointment since he became governor in 2018. No other governor has filled more than three vacant statewide elected seats.

“Some people will say it had a lot to do with color,” Parson said. “Some people will say a lot of other reasons why somebody gets picked when it comes to me. It’s about, ‘Are you a man of faith? Are you a family man? Do you believe in this country, and are you willing to work hard?’ Vivek checked every one of those boxes.”

Malek on Tuesday told reporters that he left his law firm, which handles immigration cases, to work as treasurer.

He already said he plans to run for a full, four-year term as treasurer in 2024.