(paraphrased from Michelle’s video interview)
My name is Michelle Kaufusi, and I’m running for Provo Mayor.
Love For Provo
My love for Provo goes back to being born and raised in Provo. I was born and raised by a single mother of seven children- a unique situation in Provo for the time. Provo made me the person I am today, due to the fact that a lot of people contributed to my upbringing, which I appreciate. I attended Brigham Young University, I attended Wasatch Elementary School, Dixon Middle School, and graduated from Provo High school, which I am very proud of, to be a Provo High alumni.
Brigham Young University
My journey to BYU was I wanted to go to Brigham Young University after I went on a field trip over there when I was in high school, and was able to see the learning environment and the people that were over there. The teachers, the professors, I was so impressed by everything. And that was my sophomore year, and that’s when I decided I am going to go to Brigham Young University. So I hit the books, I attended BYU on an academic scholarship. I believe I had about 14 days off from Provo high before I crossed the street, and started school at BYU. And at that point, I loved my education, I loved being involved. I was actually involved in the BYU Cougarettes, which was an immediate group of friends and kind girls.
I met my husband- he wanted of course to get married quicker than I did. I was a little young, and wanted to experience college. And off he went, back east to play NFL, and I stayed at BYU and had the time of my life and had wonderful experiences. I met wonderful people, grew and developed, and finally my senior year he called and gave the ultimatum of marry me, or give me back my ring. So I married him, and off we went to Philadelphia where we lived for three years. We started having our children- two of our children were born there and at that point- when you have kids, reality hits, and we had to have that hard conversation of what is our goal and expectation for our family.
And for me it was a no brainer- Provo is magical, Provo is where I wanted to be, and Provo is where I wanted to raise my family.
Moving Back To Provo
So we started taking steps to work our way back to Provo and we set our goal, that by the time our oldest daughter was 12 years old, we would be back in the city of Provo to stay. We worked very hard, and had to take pay cuts. I had to work, he had to work, everyone was working to reach that goal, but we were able to meet that goal, and we have been here ever since, and we have not been disappointed.
We love Provo. We love what is has to offer- we love the community feel and everything about it. Being back in Provo, because I have this energy that cannot sit still, I immediately engaged myself in the community, starting with PTAs, and volunteering and showing up when I would hear about something in the paper on a Saturday morning, and dragging all my children out and really becoming a part of the community- active in the public library, all those things that make the community great. Taking my kids to high school football games when the oldest was only twelve and there were four younger. But I am a community person, and I love what the community has to offer, especially Provo.
So at that point, after being involved in the PTAs, I decided to implement some programs in high schools with some help from other mothers. We implemented the ACT program, we implemented programs to help with those that possibly couldn’t afford tickets to go to the senior party, I have this desire to help the underdog and to look out for the underdog, because I was the underdog- I was the free and reduced lunch student at Provo High School, I was in a unique circumstance, and yet everyone rallied around me in the community, and really supported me, so I tend to look out for those kids.
I decided after being PTA president at the high school level and then down at the district, I learned that in order to have a voice, you have to have a sit at the table, meaning a voting seat, and so I went out for being on the board of education, representing district two, and that was six years ago, and I ran a grassroots campaign. I started in my kitchen with a girlfriend, and my daughter typed up a sign, and put oval office right above my head, and off we went.
We had no idea what we were doing, we learned as we went, we made mistakes, we didn’t have all the answers, but we plotted through, got out there, knocked the doors, walked the neighborhoods, met the people, and won the election.
And at that point, the school board- I had already been attending all the meetings for a year, because I don’t come into anything/throw myself into anything blind, and so I had prepared and was ready to go, so onto the school board I went. I have loved my experience there, that’s like an open door to multiple other community committees and boards that I have been asked to serve on. Locally I’m on the citizen’s advisory board, which is probably one of my favorite boards I sit on for the Provo city- it’s highly engaged, and it’s all about breaching the gap with the police department and the community, and being the face of the neighborhoods. I’ve loved serving there. I’ve been on the district PTA, I’ve worked at the library, I’m on the steering community for the new add-on to the hospital- I feel like I’ve had experience in a lot of different areas, which I’ve loved.
Two years into my being on the board I was elected board president, which was such an honor, because you’re elected by your peers, and to be elected means they trust you, and they support you- they feel like you’re doing well in your job. I felt great about it, and enjoyed it so much, I’ve been put on some state committees, which I’ve enjoyed, meeting people outside of Utah county. The Board of Trustees for the Utah High School Activity Association was one of those which I was elected by my peers to, and as I walked into my first meeting with 22 men and myself, I knew I was right where I needed to be. I have enjoyed that committee- learning how to negotiate, learning how to state your opinion, and then maybe agree to disagree, but walk away feeling good about each other, and being able to carry on conversations, and do what’s better for the good, and moving forward and progressing.
I have five children that I adore and a beautiful daughter in law that I love very much, a husband that is the cutest little Polynesian man you’ll ever meet- he’s so kind-hearted and tender and loving and supportive, and supports me in this adventure that I’ve taken on.
Running For Mayor
A lot of people pushed me to the front for this, and have been preparing me. Businessmen have been pushing me forward saying ‘you’ve gotta run, you’ve gotta run’, and I’ve always taken it back to my husband and said ‘what are your thoughts?’, because he has great wisdom, great advice and great direction, and I trust him. And he said ‘let’s do this, I’m ready to be the first man of Provo’, and I think he is- he would make a great first man of Provo if I were to win mayor.
I attended BYU, a fascinating story is I made a commitment to my mother who passed away when I was a young mother- I think we wore her out- seven kids, raising them by herself was a lot of work. She worked the graveyard shift at the hospital, and so she did the 7pm to 7am shift and was just an amazing, nurturing, loving mother, and taught me more, and makes me the person I am today. Anyways, if I talk about her, I’ll cry, so I have to move on.
So she actually was one of the first female student body presidents at Provo High. She was a leader in the community, even though it was tough being a single mom, she was always there to help always- there to serve, and I feel like my serving abilities have been learned from her.
At BYU I studied International Global Studies with an emphasis on local government, which feeds right into this. I have learned about zoning, and how to literally make zoning maps and make/read them, and how to do presentations. I loved my time at BYU. It was such..I walk off that campus and I almost felt like, I just can’t leave, I’m having way too much fun! I’m a lifelong learner, I want to keep going, so I do have goals to pursue further education, which I’ve had to put on hold, because this is a full-time job, and I can’t do anything without doing it 110%.
So my hobbies (these are super great). I’m an avid lover of the outdoors- the mountains, the Rock Canyon mountains and the west mountain and the lake. I dare you to take me on a trail I haven’t been on- I am up in the mountains all the time. Rain, shine, snow, snow up to my thighs- I’m there. It’s my peaceful place, I enjoy the outdoors and I’m an avid book reader- I read about 3 books a month. It has slowed down a little bit since the campaign, I just finished my second book for last month, so I’m a little bit behind- I’m currently reading Paul Revere which is fascinating, and I’m loving that.
Some other things about me is I love being with my family, I have to admit I don’t know that much about sports. People often are confused when they hear the last name Kaufusi- they just think ‘ my gosh sports is all you do and you just produce these massive sports kids.’ You know what, there’s so much more to life than sports, and I have tried, and I think I’ve succeeded in implementing that into their lives- it’s engrained in their little hearts and heads- they know there’s more to life than sports.
I try really hard to sit through their games, but a lot of times I’ll think of other things that are more productive that I could be doing, so then I have a little bit of a tug of war. Sometimes I think- it’s half time I could run to Costco and no one will be there- and I do do that, I will confess. But I do love the team building, and the life lessons my kids have learned through sports are irreplaceable as well.
Staying In Provo
We currently live up on Comanche lane, and we love our neighborhood. We love our neighbors- everyone’s been so great. My husband and I decided that when we did this final move to Provo, we wanted our children to have stability. In his profession there’s a lot of instability. A lot of his coaching friends and our friends are on their 12th, 13th, 14th move- that wasn’t what we wanted for our kids- we both committed that when we moved to Provo, we were here to stay, even if I had to work two jobs, and he had to work two jobs, we were going to do what it was going to take to stay in Provo, and that just tells you how much I believe in Provo, and how much I want my children to believe in Provo, and I want to build a Provo that my children are going to want to stay in, and their children are going to want to stay in.
Oh, I’m running a marathon just for kicks and giggles, because I have a girlfriend that’s my dear, dear friend, and we are training for a marathon. Funny story, I’ve paid my fee, and I’ve been working on it, and we were doing some calendaring in our family meeting, because our life’s all over the board (which is just exactly how I love it, the busier the better), and I said ‘my marathon is September 9th, is anyone coming?’ because this in my 10th marathon and it’s my last. I’ve decided I want to end on number ten, because I’m getting a little bit old to do that 26.2 miles. And my husband said ‘what day is that?’ I said ‘September 9th and I’m so excited,’ and he said ‘oh, that’s only the day of the BYU-Utah game.’ And I thought, well that’s totally our family- I will be running a marathon, they’ll all be prepping for the biggest game of the season, and we’ll all meet up at the locker room at the end, and that’s the goal. So we have a great family- we’ve had a great life- I’ve had a great life in Provo, and I have a true love for the city of Provo.