Oakland County has lost a great mentor and leader last week. Dennis R. Toffolo, deputy Oakland County executive, died last Tuesday evening after suffering a heart attack at his Oxford home.
Toffolo, 62, oversaw the county’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs and several other high profile programs.
“Every time someone passes you hear a lot of superlatives about the impact he had on his friends and the community,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “In Dennis’ case, all of the superlatives are true. He lit up any room with his smile. The staff adored him. There aren’t many irreplaceable people in this universe but I respectfully suggest Dennis Toffolo was one of those people.”
Patterson brought Toffolo onto his executive team eight years ago as director of the Department of Community and Economic Development. He was soon elevated to deputy county executive and put in charge of the county’s Emerging Sectors® business attraction and retention strategy. In five years under his guidance, the program attracted more than $1.2 billion of investment and created or retained more than 21,000 jobs. He oversaw the county’s Medical Main Street initiative to brand Oakland County as a life science center, Main Street Oakland County and the Oakland County Business Roundtable. He was also was instrumental in creation and launch two weeks ago of the Economic Growth Alliance between Oakland, Genesee, Livingston and St. Clair counties.
Patterson said Toffolo’s impressive business background, which included being president of the J.L. Hudson Department Store chain, made him a natural to be the county’s top businessman.
“He was ready-made for economic development,” Patterson said. “I just kept loading and loading him up with projects and he kept hitting them out of the park.”
Doug Smith, director of economic development, said Toffolo was always the calming voice that helped put things into perspective.
“He was a great mentor and provided tremendous leadership for the county’s economic development efforts,” Smith said. “He worked tirelessly on behalf of the county. Eight years is such a short time and he made such a difference in the economy of Oakland County. But beyond that, he was simply a wonderful person.”
Toffolo received an MBA in finance and an honorary doctorate of business administration from Central Michigan University. He was also owner of DeDonDa, a real estate firm, and Toffolo and Associates, a development firm.
Toffolo’s community involvement included:
• Board of Directors, Automation Alley
• Business Advisory Board, Oakland University
• Economic Partnership Committee, Detroit Regional Chamber
• Board Member, Oakland County Downtown Development Authority
• Government Advisory Board, Michigan Economic Development Corporation
• Business Advisory Board Development Board, Central Michigan University
• Michigan Economic Development Corporation Board Executive Committee
• Chair of the Certified Technology Park for Automation Alley Smart Zone
• Detroit Renaissance Economic Development Coalition of Southeast Michigan Board
• Detroit Metropolitan Visitors and Convention Bureau Board
Toffolo is survived by his wife, Diana, and three children: Dena, Dan and Don.