Patterson discusses his legacy following cancer diagnosis

L. Brooks Patterson sat down for his first interview since his cancer diagnosis with The Oakland Press to discuss his ongoing treatment, plans for the future and 40-plus year legacy serving the county.

Patterson announced back in March during a press conference that he’d been diagnosed with stage-4 pancreatic cancer. At the time, he made it clear that he had no intention to seek reelection for an 8th term as county executive in 2020, though he would continue to serve in his role while seeking ongoing treatment.

At the press conference, Patterson said he had only an 11 percent chance of surviving the diagnosis.

Nearly two months after the announcement, Patterson talked with the Oakland Press about the moment he learned of the diagnosis and how he’s been coping since.

“My first question was, ‘how much time do I have?’” Patterson said. “He (oncologist) told me that he didn’t know, ‘Only God knows that.’ I said, ‘You gave my medical records to (U.S. House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi?’”

Patterson recently spent a “special” two weeks in Florida with family that he said may be his last trip ever to the area. “I just don’t know how much time I have left. I treasured every moment. The grandchildren came down with me. For them it was like, ‘Grandpa was there and the bank was open.’ I had a lot of fun with them.’”

Patterson is “optimistic, but not overly optimistic” that he will survive the diagnosis, he told the Oakland Press. Moving forward, he said he definitely wants to continue serving in office. With his remaining time in the role, Patterson is dedicated to challenging political subgroups led by the likes of Bernie Sanders.

“You’ve got Bernie Sanders out there and the whole crowd is influenced by his philosophy,” he said. “I don’t want to leave this planet without at least saying that our capitalist system is the best we’ve ever seen in the world.”

Patterson will endorse his successor so long as they’re a Republican, he told the Oakland Press. He said only one prospective Republican candidate for the county executive position has approached him: Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard.

While he’s confident Bouchard would make a great successor, Patterson said he’s worried the public will have the same mentality.

“Mike has established a strong base here,” Patterson said. “When you become known as an effective county sheriff, it’s hard for the voters to see you out of that department into the policy- making department of the county executive’s office….I had that same struggle and I passed the test. Mike is going to have the same problem.”

He continued: “He’s got local law enforcement and legislative experience, having served in the state Senate. That’s not a bad resume to run on. He has done such a damn good job, people may be reluctant to move him up.” Patterson has served with Oakland County for more than 40 years, starting his career in 1973 as the Oakland County Prosecutor before being elected as executive in 1992. Looking back on the past several decades, the executive said he’d like his legacy to be that of a responsive, clean and effective government.

“People talk about transparent government all the time,” he said. “I came into office wanting to be the most transparent administration and I think we have been. I think we’ve been very responsive to the media and the end result is a very good series of programs which I have tremendous public support.”

Find Patterson’s full interview at Theoaklandpress.com/.