Introducing Ofa Matagi, Utah Clean Energy’s Newest Team Member

As a first generation, Pacific Islander woman, my connectivity to others and by extension to the land we occupy has always been a relationship of great importance to me. In Tonga, we refer to this spatial relationship as “tauhi va,” which literally means to look after or protect the vă or space between two or more people or among groups who are related to one another in some way (Thaman 2003). Born and raised in the racially and ethnically diverse city of West Valley Utah, most of my life has been on the “west side.” Unfortunately, the realities of institutional and structural racism were apparent to me at a very young age. It was evident through the policies and legislation that impacted my hometown and essentially those that looked like me. I could no longer ignore the impacts on the underserved and underrepresented communities from which I came. As such, I began not only my academic endeavors, but my professional and community work with an acute desire to advance solutions that would ultimately uplift those around me.

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Over the last 15 years I have had the opportunity to develop a work history and experience that has given me breadth towards creating greater Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion work. From my combined 9 years of experience working in SSA Law & Estate Planning to my decade and a half of active civic engagement throughout the State of Utah. As a result, I believe that I will be able to continue fostering these effective partnerships with local governments and community-based organizations in collaboration with Utah Clean Energy’s team and mission. 

I also currently serve as one of Salt Lake County’s Planning Commissioners. Collectively we examine land use ordinances regarding planning, zoning, development and subdivision ordinance. In our community meetings/hearings for the West General plan as well as divisions within the Southwest Oquirrhs & Traverse Mountains.

I have come to better understand the importance of considering the impacts on and incorporating perspectives of multiple communities in analysis as well decision-making. Not only regarding land use, but with housing, transportation, and recreation. Additionally, and of particular importance to me, environment and conservation with the ability to preserve natural environments for public recreation and ecosystem benefits. 

Lastly, I have presented in many capacities through my prior involvements with YWCA of Utah to present day and facilitated conversations with a wide variety of audiences. Most notably, as a guest panelist this past May on ABC4 News CW30’s “In Focus discussion: Asian American Heritage Month.” Furthermore, earlier this year in January as the moderator and facilitator of Comcast’s Social Justice Series, “Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline.” 

In closing, I strongly believe that I am able to continue my ability in building relationships and fostering authentic community engagement with Utah’s front-line communities on climate change. Equally important, focusing on communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and air pollution. I am fervently passionate about mitigating the climate crisis within our state and to “tauhi va” in creating a clean and equitable energy future for Utah and the West.


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