Michelle Kaufusi is the first female mayor of Provo, Utah; the first city mayor being elected in 1851 and 40 more white, male mayors followed him.
Kaufusi was born Michelle Garrick in Provo. Her father left the family of seven children when Michelle was six. Her mother became a nurse and worked 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. six days a week to provide for her family and be home during the daytime. Michelle's mother passed away in 1998.
Michelle worked since she was eight years old. She continued to work throughout her teen years. She was elected student body president of Provo High and earned an academic scholarship to Brigham Young University. She also made it on the Cougarettes drill team at BYU.
She married Steve Kaufusi during her senior year of college and while he was playing for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. After his professional career, they moved with their two children, Alexis and Bronson, to Salt Lake City. In Utah they had three more children, Corbin, and twins Daryl and Devin.
Their five children are athletic, but she insisted on piano lessons, chores, church attendance, and academic success before sports. Throughout the years while raising her children, she was active in the Parent Teacher Association and became the high school PTA president. She won a seat on the Provo City School District Board of Education in 2010. She completed her bachelor’s degree in 2016. Kaufusi was elected mayor in November 2017 and took office on December 5. UtahValley360 describes one of her first meetings:
- The Provo City conference room has 17 chairs, which are usually filled with 16 men and one woman. The first time this room erupted in contention, Michelle had a flashback to Bronson and Corbin fighting over homemade swords in the backyard. The two are now professional athletes, but Michelle still sees them as boys who fought over who broke what sword and who had to give up theirs because of it.
- “As I watched the city leaders argue, I thought, ‘I’ve been here before, I’ve walked this territory,’” she says. “I asked them to put all of their thoughts on the table, and then lightbulbs started going off. We started hearing each other and finding solutions. My maternal instincts are truly my biggest asset in this role.”
In 2019, Kaufusi was selected as the Informed Decision Maker of the Year by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. She was also inducted into the Provo High School Hall of Fame.
On February 7, 2020, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. named Kaufusi as his running mate for the 2020 Utah gubernatorial election. “I don’t think I’ve met another person in local politics who was quite as inspirational. It took probably, I’d say, about 10 seconds after we met for me to realize that she was something very, very special,” Huntsman told the Deseret News shortly after tweeting an announcement video. Kaufusi said she isn't resigning and would continue to serve as mayor until time for transition, should she and Huntsman be elected.
She is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.