Usha’s family immigrated from India to the United States in 1973, when she was eight years old. She was primarily raised in Columbus, OH along with her two brothers.
In 1988, Usha would go on to earn her Bachelor of Arts in Developmental Psychology at The Ohio State University. In 1992, her husband’s work moved her and her three children to Manhattan, KS.
She raised her children as a stay at home mom and in 2003, Usha returned to school to earn her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Kansas State University. She completed her Master of Science in Educational Leadership at Kansas State in 2011.
Usha has been an educator at Ogden Elementary since 2005. She taught 1st Grade for ten years and was a Title 1 Math teacher till May 2019. At Ogden Elementary, 60% of the students are on free and reduced lunch. Over 25% of the students receive special education services. She was also President of NEA Manhattan-Ogden USD383 and worked tirelessly on better working conditions for teachers and students.
In 2004, Usha was recognized with the Kansas Department of Education Horizon Award, and in 2011 Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 recognized her with the Teacher of the Year award. In 2017, she received the Susan M. Scott Award for Community Leadership from Kansas State University’s Staley School of Leadership.
Usha has called Manhattan, KS home for the past 27 years. She has been serving as a Manhattan City Commissioner since 2013 and was mayor in 2016-2017. As a local elected leader, she has actively prioritized partnerships and built relationships with education entities at all levels, businesses, social service organizations, and state and federal government agencies. Her priorities included economic development, mental health, and quality of life initiatives in her community.
A few of her proudest accomplishments were working closely with partners to ensure that National Bio and Agro-defense Facility was successfully integrated into the greater community, signing the non-discrimination ordinance to include sex orientation and gender identity as a protected class and establishing a Crisis Stabilization Center to address the needs of individuals with mental illness. These initiatives were realized because of building relationships and coalitions for a better community.
She met Brian Niehoff at her first campaign fundraiser in 2013. They married in 2015 and have four kids between them – Ravi, Srikanth and Santhi from her first marriage and Ben from her second marriage. Their careers have taken them to California, Indiana, New York and Belgium.
In July 2019, 40 years after Usha’s father assaulted her, he was convicted of felony rape and was sentenced in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Usha feels strongly that it is important to embrace her past and take control of her destiny.
Usha currently serves as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Manhattan.