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Vancouver swears in new city attorney

Jonathan Young has been named as the new city attorney for Vancouver, replacing a predecessor who retired over the summer.

Young, who served as assistant city attorney for six years and acting city attorney for the past three months, told the city council he was “honored and humbled beyond words” Monday evening before he was formally sworn in by Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

“I moved to Vancouver in 2011 to take a job working in the city, and I’ve fallen in love with the community and the people we serve,” Young said. He took his oath before 15 guests he’d brought to the city council meeting, including his wife and daughter.

Young replaces Bronson Potter, who served as Vancouver’s city attorney for five years.

As assistant city attorney, Young had supervised the civil division, where the majority of municipal cases are handled. Before that, he’d worked for the Benton County Prosecutor’s Office and at private law firms.

He received his undergraduate degree in accounting at Saint Ambrose University in Iowa before earning a doctorate at Gonzaga University. He’s licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon.

According to Eric Holmes, Vancouver’s city manager, the hunt to replace Potter started by hiring an outside recruiting firm that solicited applicants in two rounds to fill out a candidate pool. From there, the city selected and interviewed four candidates.

“(Young) demonstrated that his knowledge, skills and abilities were far and away superior to all the other candidates,” Holmes said. “I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jonathan for a number of years, and I’m pleased the process verified what I thought going into it.”

Young will earn a salary of $163,000 per year. Potter, who made $178,000 in his last year with the city, told The Columbian in June that he was leaving to chase his love for the outdoors, and spend more time with his grandchildren.

“I’ve built them a climbing wall in my backyard, and I’ve built them a tree fort this summer,” Potter, 66, said. “I do a lot of hiking. I ski. I sail a lot. I mountain climb. I canyoneer. I do a lot of outdoor stuff.”

Upon his departure, Potter said he hoped that his successor would have strong collaboration and problem solving skills, along with the required legal expertise.

“Somebody of my position, you have to be a pretty good listener, but also at the end of the day provide clear advice,” Potter said. “I do feel proud when I look back and see what we’ve gotten done.”

On Monday, Young said that even just serving as city attorney in the interim was “the greatest professional honor of my career.”

After being sworn in, he signed his oath of office with a half-joking bit of legal advice to the room.

“Nothing’s official until it’s written down,” Young said.

He takes over the city during a period of tremendous growth and change that will require close legal guidance — downtown redevelopments like the Waterfront Gateway Properties, as well as in other areas like the Heights District.


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