By Mike Cook
“I’m very excited to see where this is going,” said Ifo Pili at the beginning of his sophomore year as Las Cruces City Director. His first day in the city was September 8, 2020.
A native of American Samoa, Pili came to Las Cruces with his family from the city of Eagle Mountain, Utah, where he started as a management analyst in 2006 and became a city administrator in 2012.
Pili previously played professional football for the Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots of the NFL.
Before moving here with his family (wife Jenny Patterson Pili and eight children), Pili said he heard that “people are what Las Cruces is all about”.
“It turns out to be true,” he said. “It was amazing.”
Las Cruces has “a small town feel, but in a good way,” said Pili.
Las Cruces is about twice the size of Eagle Mountain, which is part of the Provo-Orem, Utah Metropolitan Statistical Area. His home to Utah County and Salt Lake County to the north has an uninterrupted series of cities and towns totaling about 2 million people, he said.
After starting his job in Las Cruces during the height of the pandemic, Pili said he was still exploring the city. The Aggies in Paradise fundraiser for NMSU athletics at Aggie Memorial Stadium last month was the first major public event Pili has attended since arriving in Las Cruces, he said. He and his family have also attended other local events, including the music in the city’s park and the Las Cruces farmers and craft market. He has also eaten at many local restaurants.
“To see the city open up is just great,” said Pili. “I’m looking forward to a lot.”
Pili said he is enjoying working with Mayor Ken Miyagishima and Las Cruces City Council.
“They have heart and conviction for what they do,” said Pili. “I appreciate that.”
The same goes for the city staff, he said.
“People take care of their jobs,” said Pili. “You take care of your city. It’s nice to come to work every day and know that you are surrounded by people like that. “
Perhaps his biggest surprise since taking office as city manager is that “despite Covid-19, we have no influence on gross income tax,” said Pili.
“In fact, it has increased. People are spending more, ”he said, and the city is now making income from internet sales. The funding from the state and federal government “helped us to carry on as usual,” said Pili.
And while the future is uncertain because of Covid, Las Cruces is fine, he said. Businesses want to come to Las Cruces, there are opportunities here to develop the film industry, and the future of Las Cruces International Airport is “one we can look forward to,” said Pili.
“Andy did a great job,” he said of airport administrator Andy Hume.
With an investment of 60 to 70 million US dollars, the city is building “a real airport that can keep up,” said Pili. “That’s huge.”
The city is also investing more in infrastructure, Pili said when the city council recently decided to increase this year’s road maintenance budget from $ 4 million to $ 6 million.
“Roads are your greatest asset,” said Pili, adding that he was particularly impressed by the city’s road management system.
With support from the state, Pili said, roads will continue to be a major focal point for the city, including the possibility of building a road that connects Las Cruces Industrial Park to Santa Teresa.
“The legislature is really accessible here,” said Pili.
Pili said his wife and their eight children “really enjoy Las Cruces”.
Despite his hopes that she would attend New Mexico State University, Pili said that his eldest daughter, Lia, is now a student at Brigham Young University. BYU is both her parents’ alma mater and “her dream school,” he said.
The other Pili children between the ages of 5 and 18 are doing “really well,” he said. They have “great schools and great teachers” and participate in Las Cruces Public Schools sports programs and other activities in elementary, middle and high schools, Pili said.
“I’m really impressed with our school district,” he said.