Puyallup City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto is getting a promotion, as the City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to make him the new city manager in Pierce County’s third-largest city, effective Jan. 1.
Yamamoto, 43, comes to the job with 7 1/2 years of Puyallup City Hall experience, which he said will give him the momentum to work on Puyallup issues, such as addressing the aging jail and police department facilities and building more sports fields. He became city attorney in 2011.
“I can, to use the cliché, hit the ground running,” the Tacoma resident and Puyallup native said. “I know the organization. I know the folks and I know the issues.”
His annual salary as city manager will be $150,000; he earns $119,000 as city attorney.
Before coming to Puyallup, Yamamoto worked as an attorney in several Washington cities, in a fire district and a private firm. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Walla Walla College and a law degree from Seattle University School of Law before it left Tacoma.
The council selected Yamamoto after a nationwide search directed by the Prothman Company, which identified 34 applicants.
Yamamoto was one of four finalists the council interviewed last week. The others were: Belinda Graham, Riverside, California assistant city manager; Phillip Messina, a Prothman recruiter and former Ridgefield, Washington, and Central Point, Oregon, city manager; and Gregory Young, Ferndale city administrator.
Councilman Tom Swanson said Yamamoto’s Puyallup knowledge set the bar very high during the interview process. It also softens the impact from the retirement of Bill McDonald, who led the city’s day-to-day operations as interim city manager for the last two years, Swanson said.
“He’s earned the right to be retired again,” Swanson said of McDonald. “Our city attorney, moving on to be city manager, has lessened the impact of that significantly.”
McDonald, too, said he thinks Yamamoto will make a superb city manager.
“It’s nice to pass the baton to someone who I know is super great,” he said.
Yamamoto will be the third consecutive full-time city manager to be hired from within Puyallup government.
Gary McLean was also promoted from city attorney; he clashed with the council as city manager and resigned after more than two years without giving a specific reason. Ralph Dannenberg then moved up from the parks and recreation director job; he left the city manager post after more than two years and later filed a retaliation claim against the city, which was settled.
McDonald has worked as interim city manager since August 2012.
Councilwoman Heather Shadko said the four city manager finalists were all exceptional, but Yamamoto amazed council members in his interview and his selection was one of the rare times when they could all agree.
“We don’t always get along and play nice, but this was a time where we all liked the same person,” Shadko said.
Mayor John Knutsen said he thinks Yamamoto will able to address the agendas of each council member in a way that is both fair and honest.
“He’s never ever been willing to sacrifice his integrity for his job,” Knutsen said. “I think he’ll do good.”