Provo • Longtime Provo resident Michelle Kaufusi took a strong lead in her bid to become the city’s next mayor — positioning her to make history as the first female leader in its 157 year history.

Kaufusi had a 45-34 percent margin over Sherrie Hall Everett in unofficial results.

Surrounded by friends, family and campaign staff at “campaign headquarters” — her Provo home — Kaufusi and her team cheered as the first wave of results came in, showing her with a convincing lead over Everett. In third place was write-in candidate Odell Miner.

Kaufusi was excited but wary of celebrating too soon.

PROVO MAYOR ELECTION RESULTS

Total votes • 7,952

Michelle Kaufusi • 3,601 • 45.3%

Sherrie Hall Everett • 2,695 • 33.9%

Odell Miner • 1,656 • 21%

“I’m feeling good but unsettled because this vote by mail is so different,” she said. But if the results hold, she added, “it will be fantastic. That will be unbelievably historically… I mean, just fantastic.”

Everett wasn’t ready to concede.

“We’re optimistic. We feel like we’re a little bit in Groundhog Day because it’s how the first votes rolled out in the primary and we gained momentum as the later votes rolled in,” she said, adding “It’s not over yet.”

Kaufusi, who was born and raised in Provo, has a degree in geography from Brigham Young University with an emphasis in global studies and local government. She has served for six years on the Provo School Board, part of that time as president.

If elected, Kaufusi would likely face challenges posed by rapid growth and development in Provo in the coming years. The city is Utah’s third largest but second-fastest growing, according to an analysis by the personal finance and consumer website NerdWallet.com

When outgoing Provo Mayor John Curtis — who was elected Utah’s next congressman on Tuesday — took office in 2010, he worked to improve Provo’s economic development and downtown vibrancy, among other initiatives.

Kaufusi said she’s prepared to pick up where Curtis left off. She ran on a platform of strong neighborhoods, vibrant economic development and responsible fiscal management.

Kaufusi’s opponent, former City Councilwoman Everett, also looked to prioritize smart economic development, if elected. The co-vice chairwoman of the Utah Transit Authority studied recording engineering at BYU and currently owns her own business, a marketing firm called Creative Stream.

Everett faced criticism during her campaign from North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, a fellow UTA board member, who alleged in September she had a conflict of interest when she accepted a $10,000 campaign contribution from a construction company tied to a major transit-agency contractor.

Everett said she had notified UTA’s general counsel about the donation and made sure it was specifically listed on her campaign financial-disclosure form.