Samoan signs historic contract in New Mexico
A former Samoan National Football League player has been appointed to manage the city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and oversee 1,600 jobs and a US$414 million budget.
The Las Cruces Sun reports that the contract signed by Samoan native, Ifo Pili, is “the largest city manager contract in Las Cruces’ history.”
City managers are officials appointed to administratively manage a city’s local Government; Las Cruces has a population 107,000.
The father-of-eight and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began his job early this month.
Previously, he worked 14 years as a city employee for Eagle Mountain, in the state of Utah, including as the city administrator.
Pili says his focus will be economic development and poverty alleviation, according to the Las Cruces Sun. He has also been tasked with the responsibility of hiring a Police chief.
Among his biggest accomplishments at Eagle Mountain was bringing companies Facebook and Tyson to the city.
The administrator lists job creation as number one on his list of priorities as the manager of Las Cruces.
“You know, economic development to me is the dinner,” Pili told the Sun.
“That’s the bread of the city. It’s not just about businesses, it’s not just about going out and getting big business to come.
“Economic development just covers so many different things, but to me it’s about jobs and about income. Nothing does that better for a city than economic development.
“For me, it’s about job creation. Number one. It’s not just about chasing tax dollars. It’s about creating jobs that are going to benefit your current residents, first and foremost.”
Pili says that affordable housing and mental health must also be addressed by the new city manager.
“I’ve been talking to some of our councillors [who] have expertise in the mental health field,” he said.
“As a city administrator, I’ve never attacked those issues before. But I’m learning. I’m learning that if we’re looking at poverty, we have to go to the core of some of these issues, and I have to learn about how this city can be instrumental and partner in those areas.
“The other thing is affordable housing is a big deal. At the end of the day, no matter what types of jobs you're bringing in, if you have no place for people to stay that’s affordable for them, it just defeats the whole purpose of raising people’s income levels.”
The Las Cruces Sun notes that Pili must appoint a Police chief “at a time when protests against police brutality have rocked the nation and Las Cruces.”
He told the Sun “where I come from a place where police officers are rockstars” and “part of the reason is they are part of the community.”
“They usually live here. They grew up here, and I need somebody that will make sure that’s perpetuated, that people realise that they are part of the community because of their actions and the way they treat people,” he said.
One of his main responsibilities is overseeing a huge budget of USD$414 and he says he will “make sure that the tax dollars are kept sacred.”
Pili moved to Utah from American Samoa when he was a teenager and played football as a nose guard at Brigham Young University and then in the N.F.L. for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots.
“You know, my faith is everything. I appreciate the question actually, thank you. My faith is everything to me,” he told the newspaper.
“I feel like whatever role, whatever hat, whatever job I’ve had, I’ve relied on my faith to carry me through, and if I’ve found any success in those areas it’s because of my faith.”
Pili’s parents are the late Dr. Falema’o Phil Pili who passed away while serving as treasurer for the American Samoa Government and Vickie Faaifoaoolelagi Matina Pili.