Name: L. Brooks Patterson
Political Party: Republican
Website(s): www.LBrooksPatterson.com, Twitter: @brookspatterson,
Occupation: Oakland County Executive
- Juris Doctor – University of Detroit-Mercy
- Bachelor of Arts in English – University of Detroit-Mercy
Previous and/or current elected positions:
- Oakland County Executive, January 1, 1993 – Present
- Oakland County Prosecutor, January 1, 1973 – December 31, 1988
- The Rainbow Connection (grants wishes to seriously ill children) – Founder
- Arts, Beats & Eats – Founder
- Count Your Steps (to fight childhood obesity) – Founder
- The Brooksie Way Half Marathon & 5k Race – Founder
- Brooksie Way Minigrants (to help organizations promoting healthy/active lifestyles) – Founder
- MIGreatArtist (New regional art contest) – Founder
- Fire & Ice Festival – Founder
Why do you want to be the County Executive?
My administration is transforming Oakland County with vision and steady, no-nonsense, transparent leadership. Oakland County is among the best places to live, work, play and raise a family. We have achieved much, but we must continue Oakland County’s leadership and innovation in the areas of job growth, technology, fiscal management, and quality of life.
Why should people vote for you?
As county executive, jobs are my number one priority. Long before the auto industry implosion, I began to diversify Oakland County’s economy through initiatives that foster job growth in the knowledge economy such as Automation Alley, Emerging Sectors, and Medical Main Street. They are attracting high tech and advanced manufacturing companies to the region. Oakland County also promotes small business development through programs such as Main Street Oakland County, the SBA 504 loan program, and the Small Business Center. Since the inception of each job creation initiative, Oakland County has garnered more than $4.4 billion in private sector investment creating more than 66,000 jobs and retaining more than 18,000. University of Michigan economists George Fulton and Don Grimes forecast that under my programs, Oakland County will add 34,000 jobs in the next three years. That means Oakland County will reach full employment in the next 18 months.
Under my leadership as county executive, Oakland County is the only one in the nation to operate on a balanced three-year, line-item budget with a five-year outlook. In the face of the challenges caused by reductions in property tax revenue, my administration’s three-year budget enabled Oakland County to build a budget surplus of $201 million and retain our AAA bond rating while avoiding the pitfalls that have driven other governments into fiscal crisis. It’s thoughtful management versus crisis management. Because of our prudent policies, Oakland County has the lowest effective operating millage in Michigan
The Center for Digital Government at the National Association of Counties consistently ranks Oakland County among the most digitally-advanced counties in America. By embracing technology, my administration is able to reduce its costs while delivering services more efficiently to our customers. Currently, we are positioning our IT applications out in cyber space so that local governments can use them on an as-needed basis. The program is garnering national attention. NACo has asked my administration to collaborate with them to create a national database of applications available to all governments seeking to improve operations through technology.
Oakland County is known for a quality of life that is second to none. My administration creates and promotes events and active and healthy lifestyles that are enhanced by our miles of trails, thousands of acres of parks, waterways and lakes, and other idyllic settings. From Arts, Beats & Eats, The Brooksie Way Half Marathon & 5k Race, Fire & Ice Festival, Oakland Edge Hockey Tournament, the MIGreatArtist contest, Quake on the Lake, The Uptown Film Festival, to Woodward Dream Cruise, Oakland County draws visitors from around the country to enjoy the splendor we experience every day.
What are your biggest accomplishments in your career thus far?
One of my proudest achievements is maintaining Oakland County’s coveted AAA bond rating, the highest credit score possible, through our three-year budget. When I recently met with Moody’s Investors Services and Standard & Poor’s to renew Oakland County’s AAA bond rating, one of the bond ratings analysts said, “In my 20 years as a bond ratings analyst, Oakland County is the strongest AAA county I have ever seen. You are doing things states don’t even do. In fact, you are doing things some countries don’t even do.”
Long before it was at the forefront of public debate, my administration redefined retirement benefits for Oakland County employees. Oakland County is the first county in America to have fully funded employee and retiree health care while saving taxpayers over $150 million. Plus, new hires no longer receive lifetime retiree health care but Health Savings Accounts to help supplement their retirement medical costs. In 1994, we moved county employees from a defined benefit pension plan to a defined contribution plan, much like a private-sector 401(k). Since the switch, taxpayers have saved tens of millions of dollars.
My employee wellness program, OakFit, is “bending the trend” on health care costs. The county currently pays $37 million for its employee health care, down $1 million from the previous fiscal year. Without OakFit, among other cost containment initiatives, the county would be paying $56 million today. That’s $19 million in health care cost avoidance. OakFit, which has been featured by Fox News and USA Today, includes health screenings for early detection of chronic health issues and lunchtime healthy lifestyle activities for employees.
I founded Automation Alley in 1997, Michigan’s largest technology consortium with more than 1,000 high tech companies across eight counties. Automation Alley has been honored by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
In 2004, I created Oakland County’s Emerging Sectors initiative to identify the top 10 sectors that will attract and retain sustainable, high-paying jobs to Oakland County in the 21st Century. Companies in these emerging sectors are involved in such leading-edge technologies as biotechnology, nanotechnology, wireless communications and alternative energy.
In 2008, I launched Medical Main Street to market our region as a destination for world-class health care, life science research, and medical device manufacturing. Oakland County has about 100,000 individuals employed in this sector – more than the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic areas combined.
I started the nation’s only full-fledged county-wide Main Street program for the 32 distinct, historic downtowns in Oakland County. The county program was formed in 2000. Since its inception, more than $560 million has been invested in MSOC communities such as Ferndale, Clawson, and Farmington creating more than 5,100 jobs.
Last year, my administration opened the nation’s first LEED Gold Certified general aviation airport terminal at Oakland County International Airport. It utilizes a number of green technologies such as geothermal heating and cooling, solar and wind energy, LED lighting, and other energy efficiencies. It was paid for without using Oakland County general fund dollars. Today, the terminal is operating at a 44% greater efficiency reducing utility costs significantly. The airport has a $175 million impact on the region.
Noting the challenges presented by China’s emergence as a world economic power, I called for Oakland County to be the first county in America to teach Mandarin Chinese in just about every public school district. Educators responded and today the Mandarin Chinese language, history and culture are being taught in school districts throughout Oakland County.
The Brooksie Way Half Marathon & 5k Race, which I announced five years ago, has become one of the largest running events in Michigan. Last year, we attracted 6,000 runners. The private proceeds of the race are making a difference in the health of Oakland County residents by funding any organization around Oakland County which has as its mission the improvement of the physical health and well-being of its membership. More than $75,000 in Brooksie Way Minigrants have gone toward the health and well-being of Oakland County residents the past couple years.
In 2004, I learned an alarming statistic. Our children will be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will be shorter than their parents because of child obesity. So, I launched the Count Your Steps program to get Oakland County’s elementary students active by walking everywhere they go and eating their fruits and vegetables. Since the program’s inception, more than 188,000 Oakland County third- and fourth-grade students have logged more than 17 billion steps or 341 times around the Earth.
I formed the Economic Growth Alliance, a collaboration among Oakland, Macomb, Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, and St. Clair counties that will leverage regional infrastructure such as airports and freeways and a well-trained and educated workforce drawn from 3 million residents in order to attract regional economic development projects.
I founded the Business Roundtable in 1993 so business leaders can engage county government on issues that will enable them to prosper and enrich the lives of county residents. Since its inception, more than 80 percent of the recommendations from Oakland County business leaders have been implements by the county.
If you could change three things about the way Oakland County is managed currently, what would they be?
Oakland County is the acknowledged leader in Michigan for county government. We are the only county in the nation budgeting on a balanced three-year, line-item basis. Because of our innovative budgeting techniques, Oakland County maintains its status as one of only approximately three dozen counties in America that has a AAA bond rating. We consistently win the highest awards from the Government Finance Officers Association for our fiscal practices. We are praised for our transparency and the ability of citizens to engage their county leaders. We continue to be ranked among the top digitally-advanced counties in America by the Center for Digital Government because of how we utilize technology to save taxpayers money and improve customer service. Our job attraction and economic diversification initiatives have produced billions in investment and tens of thousands of jobs; these programs are forecast to continue their growth in the coming years. Additionally, Oakland County supports a premier quality of life.
However, my administration never rests on its laurels. It is ingrained in our work ethic to always look for new ways to save taxpayers money, improve customer service, attract more jobs, and enhance the quality of life for residents.
If you aren’t elected, what might you do next?
I’ll spend time with my grandkids.
Anything else readers should know about you?
I love my job; I love our residents; I love Oakland County. I will fight to ensure that Oakland County’s leadership in Michigan is not infringed.