Puyallup announces four finalists for city manager, including in-house candidate

The Puyallup City Council has identified four finalists in the search for a new city manager.

Current City Manager Bill McDonald is re-entering retirement after running the day-to-day operations in Pierce County’s third-largest city on an interim basis for two years.

Puyallup contracted with the Prothman Co. to conduct a nationwide candidate search, which yielded 34 applicants. The City Council had a lengthy executive session Tuesday to review applications and select the finalists.

The candidates, who were announced in a news release Friday, are:

•  Kevin Yamamoto, Puyallup city attorney.

•  Gregory Young, Ferndale city administrator.

•  Phillip Messina, a Prothman recruiter.

•  Belinda Graham, assistant city manager in Riverside, California.

Yamamoto told The News Tribune that his seven years with Puyallup would provide a smooth administrative transition.

“I know the city well, I know the council members well, I know the staff well,” he said Friday.

Four city managers have come and gone during Yamamoto’s time, including a Puyallup city attorney who changed roles. Yamamoto said he doesn’t aspire to be a city manager anywhere but his hometown. He previously worked as an attorney in several Washington cities, and in a fire district and a private firm.

Young has led Ferndale since 2004. He’s worked in administrative positions in Marysville, La Conner and Ocean Shores. He’s also been a finance director with Aberdeen schools and an assistant state auditor.

Messina has worked part time for Prothman in Issaquah since June. He has more than 24 years of city administration experience — in state and in Oregon — and most recently served as city manager of Ridgefield.

Graham has worked as Riverside’s assistant city manager since 2009, after a stint as the city’s development director. She’s also worked as an administrator for two economic development agencies in California.

Puyallup is having a public reception Nov. 18 so residents can learn more about the candidates and offer feedback for council consideration. The City Council will privately interview all four candidates Nov. 19.

Debi Christenson, Puyallup’s human resources director, said the city hopes to conclude the hiring by the end of the year.