Two members of Patterson administration to retire

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson announced the retirements of two of his most trusted and experienced staff members: Corporation Counsel Judith Cunningham and Public Services Director Michael Zehnder. Cunningham’s retirement will be effective Friday, April 26; Zehnder’s last day will be Friday, April 5.
“Both Mike and Judy have been among my most effective managers and exemplary members of my administration,” Patterson said. “They will be terribly missed. I wish them well.”
As director of public services, Zehnder’s responsibilities included managing six divisions of county government: Animal Control Division, Circuit Court Probation Division, Community Corrections Division, the Medical Examiner’s Office, Michigan State University Cooperative Extension, and Veterans’ Services Division. Zehnder is best-known for bringing the Great Lakes National Cemetery to Holly, Michigan. A Vietnam veteran himself, Zehnder said he plans to make the veterans’ cemetery his final resting place one day. He has been with the Patterson administration since Jan. 1, 1993. Zehnder plans to enjoy his retirement in Kentucky with his wife.
“The past 20 years have been an absolute journey,” Zehnder said. “It has been a privilege to serve the residents of Oakland County and to be a part of the best team in government ever assembled.”
Cunningham, the first woman to serve as Oakland County corporation counsel, oversaw a staff of 11 attorneys who take on a total of 1,250 assignments each year. Under her direction, more than 90 percent of Oakland County’s lawsuits have been handled in house saving taxpayers significant legal fees that would otherwise have been spent on outside counsel. Cunningham has also had some landmark legal victories including the county’s lawsuit to recover transfer taxes on deeds recorded by the Register of Deeds from the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac).
She is the current president of the Oakland County Bar Association (OCBA) – the first public official to serve in that capacity.
Cunningham, known as a mentor throughout her career, began working with Oakland County as a part-time summer law clerk in 1980. She joined the county full time in 1983 as deputy administrator of the Circuit Court. In 1988, she became Circuit Court administrator – a position she held until Patterson appointed her corporation counsel in 1999. After she finishes her term as OCBA president in June, Cunningham plans on enjoying her role as a grandmother. Her daughter, a Waterford school teacher, is expecting Cunningham’s second grandchild in September.
“I’ve been privileged to be among the few county employees who worked closely with all three branches of county government,” Cunningham said. “Brooks has provided amazing leadership for this county and he has set the bar high for all of us. He’s lead by example and I’m very honored to have been part of his team.”
Patterson has not named any replacements for Cunningham and Zehnder.