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From police chief to city manager: What lies ahead for Yokoyama and Alhambra?

Alhambra Source sat down with Mark Yokoyama, our new city manager and long-serving police chief. He talked about how he made the decision to apply for the city's top job and what his qualifications are. We asked about his goals moving forward and his vision for the future of Alhambra.

You are the police chief of the Alhambra Police Department. What made you decide to apply and take this job as city manager in the first place?

For me, it’s a great opportunity to do something new but still maintain the relationship with the community. Internally, it was an opportunity to seek out new challenges in an area that I am still familiar with. And I also think it’s a natural progression.

What do you mean when you say it’s a natural progression?

Many people think the issues that [the APD] deal with are just law enforcement, making arrests and writing tickets. That is just a small percentage of what we do. When you have the largest department in the city, you will have more issues to deal with. Those issues might be budget issues, personnel issues and certainly community issues. Because of the complex issues that [the APD] are dealing with every single day, I have daily interactions with all the other departments in the city. So I understood their roles and responsibilities. That’s why it’s been a natural progression.

Did you consult with someone from the city before you made the decision?

I spoke to our city manager [Mary Swink]. There's no better person than Mary to speak to. She gave me the best guidance, encouragement and mentorship that I could ever want. We didn’t talk so much for the application, but just for the day-to-day responsibilities and priorities for the city manager and so forth.

Yokoyama talks to an Alhambra resident at National Night Out in 2012

As a city manager, what are the community issues that you would address as priorities?

There are certainly a number of issues. My role as a city manager is to work with the city council to see what are their priorities and their vision. They are the spokespersons of their community. So depending on the issues that the city council gets from their constituency, that will dictate what my priorities will be. For example, the 710 freeway extension, expanding community programs and more community engagement, transparency, and being very open to our community.

Meanwhile, as a city manager, I need to maintain a balance of budget, and finally make sure that both our public safety entities—the police and fire departments—can maintain a high level of public service and public safety.

You will manage 10 departments instead of just one as city manager. What experiences from your past makes you qualified for the current job?

What makes me uniquely qualify for the city manager’s role is the complex issues that we are dealing with as a police department. I have to interact with every department every single day, which gives me the experience and knowledge about how other departments work to help us be successful as a police department, and vice versa. Other departments are calling the police department for help. We have to work together. I will be able to take all that experience, and spread it across the 10 different departments that I have worked with.

Yokoyama (front) and Captain Clifford Mar (back) at Alhambra Police Department's National Night Out in 2012

What would you consider your biggest achievements as police chief at the police department?

I think it is building the infrastructure of a platform for us to communicate with our community. WeChat, Weibo or Facebook, Twitter and even our webpagethose have been successful in sharing information to the public, and also in opening the door for the community to engage with us.

In addition to that, my measurement of success is our open house event every August through National Night Out. Now, we have 3000 people coming to visit us, compared to when we first did that four to five years ago, which had only a thousand. That tells me we are doing something right.

Are we going to hire a new police chief from somewhere else? Or appoint someone from our team? What is the procedure?

I appointed Captain Clifford Mar as the acting chief last week. It is part of the transition. The department is healthy with good people and has no major issues. Captain Mar for the time being can run the ship. The advantage he has is that the former police chief is right next door. I can help and walk him through. And as you know, we also have a fire chief opening as well. I think we will make a decision on the fire chief position sooner, and then work on the police chief position later.

Interview was edited and condensed.

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1 thought on “From police chief to city manager: What lies ahead for Yokoyama and Alhambra?”

  1. TRANSPARENCY, again and again we keep hearing the same from every elected and appointed national, state, municipal official, YET nothing ever changes in regards to that and decisions keep making in secrecy…hoping Yokoyama doesn’t go down the same slippery road.