L. Brooks Patterson, 73, was recently elected to his fifth four-year term as Oakland County executive. He has spent more than 40 years in the public eye, having served as Oakland County Prosecutor before becoming county executive in 1993.
Patterson, who is recovering from a serious traffic accident in August, spoke with PROSPER from his office in the Executive Office Building in Waterford Township about the accident, his plans for his fifth term and the future of Oakland County.
PROSPER: You’ve just been elected for your fifth term. What are you plans for the county?
PATTERSON: I’m going to push the programs that affect the quality of life in Oakland County: Automation Alley; Arts, Beats & Eats; Emerging Sectors®; MIGreat Artist; Fire & Ice – a lot of the programs that fall under the huge umbrella of quality of life. I’m planning to refine the programs we have now and there may be a few surprises along the way. I believe we’re out of the recession. Our long-term strategy is based on Emerging Sectors. It’s a high-tech world with high-tech jobs. We have to excel in that arena.
PROSPER: Did you ever think you would be in public service as long as you’ve been?
PATTERSON: No, never. It’s been my life and it will be my life for the foreseeable future. If you would have told me at the beginning that I’d still be doing this after 40 years, I would have scoffed. I make a tough job fun. I wouldn’t come here for 20 years if it were only agony and pain.
PROSPER: You suffered a host of broken bones including your wrists, hip, knees, ankles and several ribs. How is your recovery going and has it changed your priorities?
PATTERSON: I think I’m still going through it… but I beat the odds, I’m still here now. I think the fundamental change is, if I had a chance to give a speech before 500 people or go to one of my kids’ or grandkids’ functions, I picked the speech. I wouldn’t pass up a crowd like that. But now, I wouldn’t pass up that soccer or baseball game. My family is more important.
PROSPER: You’ve taken some criticism for not wearing your seat belt before the accident.
PATTERSON: They were right. There’s no defense. If you’re wrong you’re wrong.
PROSPER: The voters gave you 57 percent of the vote, even though you weren’t able to campaign.
PATTERSON: I thank the voters for their faith in me. I think it’s an affirmation of the programs we’ve instituted and the fine staff that works diligently for the county every day. I thank them for their hard work and the voters for not holding it against me that I was not able to get out and meet with them before the election.
PROSPER: Can you still do the job?
PATTERSON: They just have to watch. I’ll be here. I’ve got a great staff. I don’t think we missed a beat. I love this job.