A new wave of leadership is poised to start in Alhambra, and it's younger and has Orange County experience. Alhambra City Manager Julio Fuentes announced the appointment of Mark Yokoyama for police chief, Bill Walker for fire chief, and Paul Espinoza for finance director.
"Three guys from Orange County are coming to Alhambra," Fuentes said. "It’s usually the other way, LA County going to Orange County. And all three that are coming are really outstanding."
Yokoyama, a Los Angeles native, is currently Police Chief in the city of Cypress. A police officer since 1986, after serving in the San Francisco Bay area he returned to Southern California in 2003, joining the Cypress Police Department and has been chief since 2008.
"During his tenure, Chief Yokoyama has continued his interest in developing police-community relationships, has instituted technology initiatives, and has furthered the implementation of contemporary policing philosophies," according to his bio on the Cypress city website.
"We’re very fortunate to have found him," Fuentes said, noting that it was a very competitive field of candidates "with three finalists, two chiefs and a really qualified captain." One element which distinguished Yokoyama, Fuentes said, was his educational background. He has two Masters degrees, one in Behavioral Science from Cal State Dominguez Hills and a second in Executive Leadership from the University of Southern California, and also teaches. "He’s a young chief, certainly up and coming," Fuentes said. "We’re just hoping that he comes here and stays for a while and builds on a terrific department."
The fire chief appointee, Bill Walker, beat out five existing fire chiefs in the finals, "all of them outstanding," Fuentes said. "It was really tough to make the call on that." Walker began as a rookie with the Fountain Valley Fire Department in 1995 and worked his way up to chief in 2006 at the relatively young age of 39.
"They raved about him in Fountain Valley and indicated that he is an outstanding fire chief," Fuentes said. "Everyone we talked to in the industry has had nothing but good things to say about him."
The finance director appointment had the greatest competition, with directors from 15 other cities vying for the job, according to Fuentes. Paul Espinoza, the finance director of the City of Westminster, rose above the rest. "The finance director is probably the crucial position in your organization," Fuentes said, emphasizing the quality of Espinoza's qualifications. "If you don’t have a good finance director, life can be pretty short."
The appointments are subject to City Council approval at Monday's meeting. Fuentes is hoping this new wave of leadership will bring new life into city government for years to come. "We’re all getting much older and we’re beginning to look toward retirement," Fuentes said of the current department heads and city leadership. What the city needs, he said, is "young, charismatic, well-qualified leader types to go into our departments, but also to be there and be good mentors for the young people."