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Las Cruces City Manager Ifo Pili’s first 60 days on the job have included “a whole lot of learning, a whole lot of listening.”
Pili became city manager Sept. 8 and has now been joined in Las Cruces by his wife, Jenny Patterson Pili, and their eight children ages 4-17, (six girls and two boys), who are remotely learning in elementary, middle and high school.
Pili, a native of American Samoa, had been with the City of Eagle Mountain, Utah, since 2006, serving as city administrator for the past eight years, before taking the job in Las Cruces.
Pili said he has visited most every Las Cruces street and park since starting his new job, often traveling with city councilors, city staff and stakeholders to hear their ideas and concerns.
One thing he’s already noticed, Pili said, is that Las Cruces has an “excellent pavement management program,” but he would like to see an increase in the $4 million it spends annually on maintaining city streets.
“That’s not a lot of money for a city our size” measured per capita and per mile of pavement, Pili said.
He would also like to see an increase in the budget for maintaining city parks.
Despite the ongoing challenges of COVID-19, Pili said the city is in good shape financially and in other ways and has a hard-working staff.
Pili said the city has completed the first round of interviews in the search for a new police chief to replace Patrick Gallagher, who retired earlier this year. Pili said a new chief could be in place within about a month.
Pili has also visited different barbershops around the city for haircuts and wants to eat in every Las Cruces restaurant he can to learn first-hand about local small businesses and “meet with as many people as possible.”
“He’s the first city manager that I have eaten sushi with for lunch,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said. “I think Ifo is doing a great job! I’m glad he’s here.”
Pili said it has been exciting to see “how much pride people have in this city. They love this city.”
Pili said he has also been impressed by “how many people are working on the same goals” to make Las Cruces better.
“I’m really excited for what we have on the horizon,” he said. “I think we’re going to do some great things here.”
Pili said his main focus as city manager is to reduce Las Cruces’ poverty rate. Eagle Mountain saw its median household income increase by $20,000 in a decade during his tenure there, he said.
“Government didn’t do that,” Pili said. “It was business that did that.”
That kind of growth is possible for Las Cruces, Pili said.
“We can play in the big leagues right now. We have all the resources,” he said. “Going after business and economic development, I honestly believe that’s going to move the poverty dial.”
Ultimately, Pili said he would like to see Las Cruces ranked as the best place to live in the United States.
From F&A Dairy of Las Cruces doubling its employment to Electronic Caregiver working toward becoming one of the largest employers in New Mexico, “what we have here is amazing,” Pili said. “That message needs to be shared and “shouted from the rooftops.”
Pili moved to Orem, Utah in 1994 and graduated from high school there. He was a lineman with the Brigham Young University Cougars and the NFL’s Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, and has an NFL championship ring as part of the Eagles’ 2004 National Football League champion team. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a masters’ degree in public administration, both from BYU.
While serving as Eagle Mountain city administrator, Pili was district administrator for the Unified Fire Service Area and was an adjunct professor in BYU’s masters of public administration program.