Ifo Pili, Eagle Mountain, Utah, City Administrator
He’s city administrator for a community bordered by Utah’s “West Desert”, where on any given day at least one, if not two, herd of antelope are in city limits. The main east west thorofare is Pony Express Parkway because several miles of the 140 year old trail makes its way through town where Amazon Prime trucks can be seen whizzing roadways. Yes, Ifo Pili exchanged the trade winds and waves of the Pacific Ocean and NFL for the sagebrush and cedar trees of Eagle Mountain that’s population of 40,000 is fast approaching the 55,000 of his home island of American Samoa where his father ran for Governor and an “Uncle” was a congressman. Clark H. Caras with Candidates.vote recently sat down with Pili and talked about how this former Philadelphia Eagle and BYU lineman made his way to Utah.
Candidates.vote – It was football brought you to the mainland and away from the white beaches of American Samoa from what I’m told?
Ifo (Not being casual with this City Administrator, but his smile and demeanor brings on just naturally calling him by his given name; well, at least part of it.) Yes, but back in the day when I was growing up I didn’t play American football until high school. We didn’t have Little League there like they do now; but yes, I came to Utah when I was a sophomore in high school. I attended Brigham Young University on a football scholarship where I was a defensive lineman.
Candidates.vote – Earned a bit more at BYU than just all-conference honors?
Ifo – (With a deep chuckle…) Yes, I did. It’s where I met my wife Jenny, who was on the BYU track team. And now we are raising eight children here in Eagle Mountain who are 16 to 3 years old. We were able to meet because all the school’s teams lifted in the same weight room and were together as well in the same study hall at the old Smith Fieldhouse.
Candidates.vote – So before helping land Facebook and Tyson Chicken to Eagle Mountain after leaving BYU there was a bit of a stint in the National Football League, which included a Super Bowl?
Ifo – (At approximately 530 lbs. it’s hard for a person to look and be humble, but as he gave the answer to this question Ifo did…) I was a defensive lineman and free agent and signed first with the Houston Texans. Then I was picked up by the Eagles for a bit and the Patriots too. (Ifo’s time with the Philadelphia Eagles included the team’s Superbowl XXXIX.)
Candidates.vote – How do you explain to people your journey in life that has brought you to be the city administrator of one of the fastest growing cities in Utah; being looked at by Fortune 100 companies, such as Facebook, Tyson Chicken and others; to locate?
Ifo – Growing up my father was my example of giving public service. At BYU and in life I was a student of government and after the NFL planned on going back to American Samoa and maybe running for office. Then I came across this quaint little town and like they say – the rest is history.
Candidates.vote – BYU and the University of Utah football teams get a lot of Polynesian players with names that end up as tongue-twisters for home and away announcers. A three letter first name can’t really be all there is? And there is typically a meaning attached?
Ifo – (Laughing…) It is “Faaifoaoolelagi – Ifo for short, very short. It means, “Bowing of the clouds in heaven.” In Samoa when there is a new king; they people would say, “Let the heavens bow.”
Candidates.vote – That dad of yours who ran for governor of American Samoa, what was his name and was he successful in his campaign?
Ifo – His name is Falemao, he was named after a village. And my mom, her name is Vicki; she was Hawaiian-Chinese and the rock of our family. They are both buried here in Orem, Utah (Both moved from American Samoa to be on the mainland to watch ifo play football.)
My father, he was a Republican. He was a delegate from American Samoa for Senator Mitt Romney when he ran for president. And he of course went to the convention so he could vote for him. I was 10 years old in Samoa when my father ran for Governor of American Samoa. He was 40 years old when he ran. You just don’t do that so young in Samoa; you are considered a young pup at that age.
He lost his entire campaign committee because of being too young. And then it was just me and him, and he didn’t quit.
Candidates.vote – Your dad running for Governor of American Samoa and you were the only two managing things as you went into the election?
Ifo – Yes, he said to me, “Son we’re not going to with this. I know I’m not going to win this.” I asked him what was the reason for doing it then? He said, “I’m doing it for you. To show you it’s not okay to stand on the side line and do nothing.”
Candidates.vote – What are some of the things you miss about Samoa?
Ifo – Definitely the beaches and walking in the sand, but there are some lakes here in Utah with some very beautiful beaches. Of course I miss the fresh fish and some of the fruit, but most of all I miss my mother’s custard pie. Ohhhh, it was so good. My sister can come very close, but no one can cook it like mom.
I miss both my parents, but mom really ground my dad and all of us. In college I was 23 years old and called into a bishopric (LDS congregation leadership. My mom was in the hospital at the time and I went with my father to see her. She was laying on her bed and father tells her about my calling.
She’s laying there with a mask over her mouth and nose and she waves me over and motions to bed down. She pulls the mask away from her face and says to me, “Remember, you’re not God! Don’t be like your dad. He thinks he’s God sometimes.” I wish she was still here; that they both were.
Candidates.vote – You talk about fresh fish and fruit and it reminds me that I usually ask most interviewees if they are a hamburger or cheeseburger guy but we passed it up with you.
Ifo – I’m an Ifo Burger man. My dad had many businesses and he had three burger joints named Ifo Burger after me.
Candidates.vote – Okay. You’re an Ifo Burger guy. Pray tell just what is an Ifo Burger?
Ifo – They are the best! You had a custom bun, huge. Two patties with another piece of bun in the middle separating them. Then there was ham, egg, cheese and a special sauce! I promise; you could feed a family with one of them. They were so good.
Candidates.vote – It has to help in economic development to have you here. Companies must take a look and figure there has to be something special in Eagle Mountain for an ocean and beach loving Polynesian to be surfing the desert sand?
Ifo – (Can only chuckle…)Ifo is an adjunct professor in the Masters of Public Administration at BYU. eaglemountaincity.com