Michelle Kaufusi, Provo’s first female mayor, sworn in

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Michelle Kaufusi gives her first speech as Provo mayor following her swearing in ceremony on Jan. 18, 2018. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi was sworn into office Jan. 18 at the Provo Library. The inauguration marks the first time Provo elects a woman mayor in its nearly 170-year history.

“I will work endlessly hard for you,” Kaufusi said after being sworn in. “That is my commitment, and thank you for trusting in me.”

In her speech, Kaufusi announced the organization of a new department, addressed several city issues she wants to first focus on and lauded Provo’s progress in business and volunteerism.

The Mayoral Inauguration was marked by moments of respectful solemnity, lighthearted humor and overwhelming pride as city members rallied around their new mayor.

In a prerecorded Star Wars spoof video shown at the inauguration, former Provo Mayor John Curtis dressed as Luke Skywalker passes a lightsaber like a ceremonial baton to Kaufusi, dressed as Rey.

Kaufusi announced a new Department of Customer Service in Provo, which she said “ensures Provo city works for Provo residents, and not the other way around.”

Karen Larsen was announced as the head of the new department, marking the first time a woman holds a department head position in Provo history.

A crowd of Provo residents watch their new mayor, Michelle Kaufusi, get sworn into office on Jan. 18, 2018 at the Provo City Library ballroom. (Savannah Hopkinson)

Kaufusi emphasized her pride in Provo. Multiple times, she called it “a city that cannot be hid”, and “a light and a model.”

She praised the city’s growth, progress and contributions nationally and globally in volunteerism and business.

Although Kaufusi said she considers the state of the city to be “incredible,” she acknowledged challenges the city faces, such as over occupancy in rental dwellings.

Kaufusi recognized the contributions of “young, single professionals” in the city, but commented that parking as well as other issues in the areas they lived were becoming cause for concern. As a result, she announced that the city council has called for a new criminal ordinance to address these problems.

“I understand the desire to have your streets less cluttered with parked cars, and they have a fair point: that the law should be enforced and not just be words in a book,” Kaufusi said.

Despite this, Kaufusi expressed concern for those who would be affected by this ordinance. She called for the issue to be addressed “the Provo way: with compassion, kindness, and respect for all.”

Kaufusi also addressed the sewer issue Provo faces with its continued growth and addressed several solutions. Although no decision was put forth, she made it clear that ignoring the issue would be irresponsible.

Deputy Mayor Isaac Paxman gave remarks before the Oath of Office, emphasizing Provo’s legacy of female government involvement.

Paxman said although Kaufusi was Provo’s first female mayor, she followed a “proud heritage of female involvement.”

“If anyone says that women are new to politics in Provo, I’m going to set the record straight,” Paxman said. “Provo has never had a city council without a female on it.”

Paxman also noted that Utah women gained the right to vote 50 years before the nationwide change and highlighted women legislators who paved the way for Utah women in politics.

“I don’t see this as so much a landmark change, as the culmination and celebration of all the giants who have come before Michelle Kaufusi,” Paxman said.

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