Planners Hear from Sean Carlson on County Leadership’s Next Steps
(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 16, 2019)
Sylvan Lake, MI – Planning officials from throughout Oakland County gathered at the Sylvan Lake Community Center Friday to hear from the new Deputy County Executive in charge of Management & Budget, Information Technology, and Economic Development & Community Affairs.
Sean Carlson is part of a new team leading the county after the recent appointment of Dave Coulter to the County Executive position. He serves under Chief Deputy County Executive Hilarie Chambers, and alongside Deputies Rudy Hobbs, and April Lynch. Together they are beginning the next generation of leadership following the passing of former County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the turning of the County Commission and Executive positions from Republican to Democratic.
The Executive Team is working on a comprehensive Strategic Plan, rooted in a list of values that Carlson shared:
~Diversity and Inclusion
Moving forward there will be a couple more months of outreach to stakeholders inside county departments as well as to officials in the 62 cities, villages, and townships that make up Oakland County, and to neighbors beyond.
They have hired Tipp Strategies to orchestrate the strategic planning process. Engagement will take place in January and February, with a full plan anticipated by Spring.
One area of particular interest to Carlson, who has a background in procurement management, is looking for ways Oakland County can be more efficient – particularly though collaborations with counties nearby.
“Transit has been on the table, but how else can we work together?” He said. “How can we pool our resources together and drive down the price of government?”
Collaborations exist among many Oakland County municipalities, such as shared and contracted services, and groups that exist for pooling expenses. That same concept is being explored in depth on a regional level through the Detroit Regional Partnership, made up of 11 SE Michigan counties.
The partnership is looking at cost savings opportunities, as well as ways to collaboratively increase investment to the area without competing with each other.
“We want to attract businesses here to Michigan,” Carlson said. “We don’t want to pluck from Wayne or Macomb Counties. That’s not a game we play. We reach out nationally and internationally to attract businesses to the region.”
He said that because of Oakland County’s quality of life it’s an attractive place for residents and businesses, and even if the business moves to a county nearby, Oakland County still benefits.
QUALITY OF LIFE AND SUPPORT FOR BUSINESS
Oakland County does have a lot going for it, Carlson said, touting some of the assets that remain part of the foundation moving forward.
Main Street Oakland County has 19 member communities and is the only county-wide Main Street program in the nation. This effort helps revitalize downtowns and make them destination locations. This effort began 20 years ago and the results can be seen in Downtowns like Rochester, Ferndale, Holly, and Lake Orion. The program will continue to serve member communities and aim to add more.
There are a number of cultural and recreational assets in Oakland County, including 138 miles of trains, and three waterway trails. These along with the mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas make Oakland County an attractive place to be.
To attract and retain business, Oakland County has representatives that travel to other countries in hopes of luring more business here. One emphasis is on advanced manufacturing, both in attracting investment but also working with schools to ensure workforce development.
Oakland Schools, Oakland Community College, and Oakland University are among the educational institutions who are at the table for discussions as well. They not only help with workforce development, they also attract people to the Metro Detroit area with their programs.
Carlson grew up near Escanaba and joined the Army at age 17. He switched to the Air Force (joking that they had better golf courses), and spent four years as a contracting officer in the construction department. He worked for PepsiCo from 1999-2003 before leaving to run the procurement office of Governor Jennifer Granholm. He worked as Andy Dillon’s Chief of Staff, then as a Chief Procurement Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Carlson said when he was asked to join the transition team, he asked Coulter “Are you here to keep the seat warm?”
And Coulter replied, “No, we’re here to get things done.” And that answer is why he agreed to come on board.
When Coulter announced the four appointments in September, he said “I wanted deputy county executives who could hit the ground running with vast experience and a passion for public service,” Coulter said. “I now have four individuals fully representative of our county and dedicated to building from a strong foundation to an even brighter future.”
To learn more about all members of the executive team visit the Oakland County website.