by CYNTHIA KMETT
Everyone offering condolences at the passing of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has made a similar statement: There will never be another leader like Brooks Patterson. The long-time county executive died at 5:30 a.m. Saturday, August 3, at his Independence Township home surrounded by family and friends after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 80 years old.
“It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of our friend and county executive, L. Brooks Patterson,” Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson said. “He was a once-in-a-generation leader whose vision inspired all of us to be part of the best county government in America.” Poisson would later be sworn in as the county executive, for now.
Poisson may have taken the oath of office to serve as county executive until either the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor within 30 days or a special election is held as provided by law (see Public Act 139 of 1973, Section 45.559a).
We already know two democrats who want the job. Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner and recently-resigned Oakland County Board Chairman Dave Woodward, who actually thought he would get the job the next day, because a Republican county commissioner was out of town, and Democrats would still have the majority, but that meeting was postponed. So the vote count – now that Woodward is off the board – is 10-10 of each party, so it should be some meeting when the commissioners meet this Friday.
This week, however, will be one of honoring Patterson for the direction he set not just for Oakland County, but for the metro area as well.
Mary Warner, Patterson’s daughter, released the following statement on behalf of the family: “Our dad was a courageous fighter all his life and he fought right up until the end,” Warner said. “Our family is grieving over the unimaginable loss of our father, grandfather, hero, and friend. Many will remember him for his impact on Michigan and generosity toward Oakland County. We’ll remember him for his love and generosity toward his family and friends.”
“Today is the end of an era in Oakland County,” observed Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard on learning of Patterson’s passing. “Brooks Patterson was a steadfast leader, who safeguarded Oakland County’s fiscal stability in good times and in bad. His policies and focus in leading this county into the 21st Century will never be forgotten. With Brooks, we did not have to wonder what was on his mind – his quick wit and sometimes sharp tongue never left my doubt where he stood.”
Troy City Manager Mark Miller said, “Brooks Patterson will be remembered as Oakland County’s staunchest supporter. He and his top-notch appointees put in place sound fiscal systems, launched Automation Alley, and led impactful economic development initiatives. He was a very effective leader resulting in Oakland County being one of the most prosperous counties in the country. The City of Troy and all Oakland County communities benefited from his leadership.”
Patterson was over halfway through an unprecedented seventh term as Oakland County executive. Since taking office on January 1, 1993, his mission was to make Oakland County one of the best places to live, work, and raise a family. In addition, he served as Oakland County prosecutor from January 1, 1973 – December 31, 1988.
“Brooks has an incredible list of accomplishments,” said Gerald Poisson. “But for those of us who knew him well, he’ll be remembered for his unshakeable loyalty, warmth and kindness, and generous heart,” Poisson said.
Patterson was born in Loogootee, Indiana on January 4, 1939. After earning his undergraduate degree in English from the University of Detroit, he taught at Catholic Central High School in the city. Prior to earning his law degree from the University of Detroit, Patterson served in the U.S. Army from 1962-1964.
After law school, Patterson briefly entered private practice and then joined the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor. Tom Plunkett, the Oakland County prosecutor at the time, fired Patterson in 1971 because Patterson disagreed with his position favoring plea bargains. Patterson ran against Plunkett in 1972 and defeated him.
Patterson also was in private practice prior to his election as prosecutor and during the five years in between stepping down as Oakland County prosecutor and his election as Oakland County executive.
Patterson is survived by his son Dr. Dayne (Heather) Rogers of Davisburg, daughters Mary (Gary) Warner of Clarkston and Shawn Sutherland of Waterford, daughter-in-law Jessie (Charlie) Damavoletes of Waterford, former wife Kathy (Bruce) Patterson of Clarkston, 11 grandchildren, and several nieces and nephews. His son Brooks “Brooksie” Stuart Patterson preceded him in death in a tragic snowmobile accident in 2007. Patterson was also predeceased by his twin brother Stephen, sister Harriett Hayden, and nephew Timothy Hayden, all three of whom died of cancer.
The public visitation is Wednesday, August 14 from 3-8 p.m. and Thursday, August 15 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Woodside Bible Church Troy Campus on Rochester Road. The funeral, which is open to the public, is also Thursday, August 15 at Woodside Bible Church Troy Campus beginning at 1:30 p.m. The burial, which will feature full military honors, will be private.
Memorial donations may be made to The Rainbow Connection, a Rochester-based organization Patterson founded to grant wishes to seriously ill children. To date, The Rainbow Connection has granted more than 3,500 wishes. The Rainbow Connection is located at 621 W. University, Rochester, MI 48307. For more information, go Rainbowconnection.org/.