Yakima’s new permanent city manager said his transition to the city has been made easier by a friendly, welcoming community and helpful city staff.

Harrison’s first day on the job was Sept. 1. Although he’s planning to close on a home in Yakima in October, he’ll spend the interim time commuting each day from the city of Sammamish. Besides that commute, he said the rest of the transition has been great.

“The first couple of weeks has been wrapping my arms around some of the bigger issues facing this community,” he said. “I’ve started to get to meet some of the community members and the city leadership. The people are so nice and so open.”

The Yakima City Council selected him to serve as city manager in July after interviewing four finalists. Before that, Harrison was Renton’s chief administrative officer from 2018 until May and served as Issaquah city administrator for eight years. He was city manager in Wyoming, Ohio, city administrator/clerk/treasurer in Mosinee, Wis. (1996-98), and assistant to the city administrator in Wauwatosa, Wis. (1995-96).

Harrison said one of the most challenging aspects of his new role is connecting his knowledge about municipal matters and local government functioning to the specific challenges and traditions in Yakima.

“The challenging part is getting the bigger picture of the city in such a short amount of time,” he said. “I’m still learning. I’d like to offer solutions, but I can’t yet.”

Harrison added that his perspective about city management involves listening to and learning from the members of the community in which he serves.

“What’s most important is understanding the root causes of the issues and the priorities of the people who live here,” he said. “I prefer to hear from the community. I want to make sure when I’m managing that people believe we’re being responsible stewards of their resources.”

Harrison’s contract sets his base annual salary at $207,000, plus benefits.

Here are some questions and answers about his first month on the job:

What do you see as priorities for the city of Yakima moving forward?

Financial sustainability is going to be really important. I’ve heard from the Yakima City Council, “Let’s make sure we’re on a stable track financially.” With how late I’m coming into the game, it’s going to be hard to have an impact on the 2021 budget. But I want to make sure the city is financially in a good position.

Growing the tax base in the city also is important. I’d like to see the (former Boise Cascade) mill site project up and going. The community also wants the city to be a safe place to live, so I want to help ensure that all the partner organizations are coordinating.

What are your early impressions of Yakima?

The natural environment here is so beautiful! It’s lovely, although unfortunately the last few days have been obscured by smoke.

There’s tremendous opportunity here, for investment, for housing, for commercial development. It’s about making sure our presentation is that the city is a good place to do business, that our community is creative and respectful.

What fun facts would you like for people to know about you?

I spend most of my free time with my children. I like to go to their sports activities and help support them. I also enjoy the outdoors and get out for hikes. I also have a goldendoodle and a poodle.

What else would you like for the community to know?

People here have made me feel very welcome in a short amount of time. One of my goals is to be accessible to the community. I welcome opportunities to hear from people. If people want to call me or email me, I would welcome that, especially as I am getting to know the community.

Reach Lex Talamo at ltalamo@yakimaherald.com or on Twitter: @LexTalamo.