Raising her son to be a strong man motivates Bev Uipi every day. She considers challenges with that in mind, including the decision she made to leave an abusive relationship.
"I kept thinking, 'I can't do this. I can't do this.'" Uipi said. "Having my son was my inspiration to get out to do what I needed to do."
The senior director of the Millcreek Community Center, Uipi helped organize the creation of a state-of-the-art facility that includes a recreation center, a library and a senior citizen center all in one — the first building of its kind in the nation.
Formerly the community relations specialist to Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, Uipi said her heritage, her family life and her own aspirations helped her navigate her ascendant career.
Her father, Phil Uipi, the first Tongan to serve in the Utah House of Representatives, built high expectations for her since she was young.
She graduated from the University of Georgia on a volleyball scholarship with a degree in economics. After working for her father and then at multiple insurance agencies competing against companies across the west coast, she landed the job at the mayor's office. She also served as chair of the Pacific Island Chamber of Commerce.
"I think she understands the community," said Ben Au, chair of the Pacific Island Chamber who served with Uipi. "She knows the problems they face. She knows their strengths and weaknesses. She knows how to talk to her community."Comment on this story
Uipi uses qualities she said come from her heritage to help her as a single mother and in her work. That is why she loves learning about her Tongan ancestry and still teaches her son the Tongan language. She said all Pacific Islanders in America can remember where they came from and rely on the strengths of those who paved the way for them.
"The one thing I can say is in looking back at our ancestors and the natural leadership skills we have," Uipi said. "Our ancestors were able to navigate across the Pacific. Being able to respect it is one aspect. I think the culture and the heritage is absolutely rich in that it teaches the fundamentals of leadership and perseverance."