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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

L. Brooks Patterson – The Man, the Legend

February 2, 2018 

Going back decades, there has been a “yuge” colorful and dominant personality on the Oakland County and regional political stage. He is as flamboyant as he has been effective. 

No, not Jeffrey Fieger, but L. Brooks Patterson!

L. Brooks Patterson

As you read the following accolades for Patterson, don’t rush to check his pulse: he is still with us. This is not a eulogy – just colleagues, adversaries and friends wanting to express the value he has added to Oakland and our state.

Even though Brooks and I don’t come from the same political mother and we have been known to disagree on a number of political and policy issues through the years, we still like and respect each other.  We are able to set aside politics in the search for the common ground necessary to solve sticky issues for the community.

Like many of us, Brooks has had his share of tragedy and heartache, yet he has persevered and contributed a great deal our state. The citizens of Oakland County have, for decades, rewarded him for his hard work by electing him to lead.  First as County Prosecutor and then as County Executive.

Cynics, this is not a column that points out the County Executive’s perceived flaws or political, partisan and policy differences. Like most politicians and policy leaders, Brooks has his share of foibles and has made mistakes over the years. Looking for negativity? You won’t find it here. But do read on if you want to hear how L. Brooks Patterson has added value and made a difference.

Since the end of the 2008 recession—under the leadership of Patterson—Oakland County has roared back. Once again, it has become a bellwether on a number of economic issues. 

I caused a problem for myself when I put out a call for comments about L. Brooks and what he has done for Oakland County; now I don’t have enough space to include all of the comments from notable people in business, government, politics, and the civic world who wish to weigh in. Here is just a sample of what leaders and colleagues think of his contributions through the years:

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, a dynamo in her own right, says affectionately, “I have known Brooks for decades, and there is truly no one like him. We may not always agree, but you can always count on Brooks to call it like he sees it, do what he thinks is right, and fight passionately for what he believes. It is due in large part to his determination and love for Oakland County that his community has become an economic engine over the years.”

Ken Rogers, who served as Deputy County Executive for 20 years, then founding executive of Automation Alley—serving as CEO for 18 years  (until his retirement in 2016) remembers, “It never was about politics. When Brooks was governing it was always about the issue at hand and not the politics of it.  It didn’t matter what the Republican or Democratic politics of the issues were.  The only thing that mattered was what was the best or right thing to do.  At the end of the day, members of the administration went home with a feeling of accomplishment. Because of Brooks’ policies, you had done your best for Oakland County.  Politics be damned.”

Steve Mitchell, President of Mitchell Research & Communications, reflects on his relationship with Brooks fondly: “I met Brooks in the 1970’s when I lived in the UP and he was meeting with GOP leaders around the state.  I have always had a wonderful relationship with Brooks and respect him greatly, he is a tremendous man and leader.  He has done an extraordinary job in Oakland County because he has selected strong people to be in his administration and he has let them do their jobs.  He is a tremendous spokesman and advocate for Oakland County.  He is very bright and, and like Reagan, he uses humor to move forward his agenda and deflect his critics.  We will not see someone like Brooks for a long time, he is unique.”

Warren C. Evans, Wayne County Executive who has done some impressive work to balance his county’s books remarks, “When I took office, bankruptcy was a very real possibility for Wayne County. Despite our partisan differences, Brooks didn’t hesitate to lend the assistance of his Deputy CEO, Bob Daddow, who provided critical insight that helped shape our plan to restore fiscal stability. Beyond the one-liners and bravado, Brooks is a dedicated public servant who understands good government and cares deeply about getting things done.”

Long-serving leader of the Detroit Regional Chamber, Sandy K. Baruah, echoes, “I don’t always agree with Brooks, but my respect and admiration for his management and leadership skills knows no bounds.  He has run an effective, responsive and pro-active government that has made Oakland county one of the most attractive places in the nation to live and work.”

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge, Michael Warren proclaims, ”Brooks’ exemplary leadership has navigated the county through the rough waters of recession as if it were smooth luxury sailing, and the times of smooth sailing as if we were on a rocket ship. … His three-year budgeting process has led the county forward with a proactive strategy that has led the nation.”

Bob Daddow, Brooks’ Deputy County Executive, started work with the county in 1993 and is one of the most decent and smartest people in government. He speaks glowingly and from the heart about his boss, “Brooks is totally devoted to Oakland County and its residents and businesses’ welfare.  He personally strives to ensure that the County provides the very best services to its residents and businesses and has launched a number of programs that have proven to be very successful, not least of which is Automation Alley and the Emerging Sectors program.”

Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Sheriff recalls: “I hired into the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office in 1977 and that was when I first met then Oakland County Prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson. From his days as Oakland County Prosecutor to his current position as County Executive, there is one thing there is no doubt about: he is the BEST thing that has ever happened to Oakland County government!  His record truly does speak for itself.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, recalls the lighter side of Brooks this way, “Of all the things I could say about Brooks Patterson, none would be as memorable as the time he and I were walking down Woodward Ave in the Thanksgiving Day parade. He, representing Oakland County as Executive in normal civilian attire, and myself representing Macomb County as Sheriff in full police uniform.  My keen law-enforcement senses allowed me to notice a dangerous situation about to fall upon him as we were walking. One of his shoelaces became undone. Noticing that he was too cold and numb to bend down and tie the shoe himself, I jumped into action. As I got down on one knee and tied his shoe, wouldn’t it figure that a photographer nearby captured the heroic moment on film. A month later, unbeknownst to me, Brooks had that photo printed on a t-shirt and wore it under a sports coat, to an event he and I were both attending. That’s classic Brooks!”

Indeed, L. Brooks Patterson: Thanks for the memories!

Tom Watkins served as an elected member of the Wayne County Charter Commission, served the citizens of Michigan as state mental health director and state superintendent of schools. He can be emailed at:, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88


February 1, 2018 · Filed under Tom Watkins

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Daniel Hoppe // Feb 2, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Nicely done, Tom! This is what the country could use today. Skip the politics and get down to business for all of us.

  • 2 Hoffman Frederick // Feb 2, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Nice piece Tom. I have known Brooks since his anti-busing days in the 70s and worked most closely with him during my decades at Chrysler. We helped shape Automation Alley together, helped create Arts, Beats & Eats, and worked closely on economic development initiatives. Today, because of Brooks, I am still involved with the wish-granting Rainbow Connection agency. Two thoughts: Brooks surrounds himself with good people and gives them running room to succeed. And two, unlike many Republicans, he believes in government and works his darnest to make it work. Good man.

  • 3 harvey bronstein // Feb 2, 2018 at 11:15 am

    What a great tribute. The non-secret is that Brooks always hires the best people.

  • 4 Richard Cooper // Feb 2, 2018 at 1:25 pm

    Fine tribute to a great political and professional figure who is responsible for moving Oakland County forward.

  • 5 Richard // Feb 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Nice article for a get-it-done political heavyweight.

    I especially enjoyed the Hackel shoelace story. Vintage Brooks!

  • 6 Elmer Cerano // Feb 2, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Brooks is the Classic Public Servant.

    He is always focused on getting the job done. He has a GREAT sense of humor and he skillfully knows when to inject humor in order to lighten the tense debates, then he allows the business to resume.

    Years ago, Brooks and I came to different positions but we had the same rationale for our positions. He asked, “why are we supporting the same end goal but we disagree on how to get the job done”?

    We talked, agreed and shook hands. I learned that, L. Brooks Patterson is a “CLASS ACT”.

  • 7 Ali // Feb 2, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    When will Oakland county have real mass transit?

  • 8 Michael Angelo Caruso // Feb 3, 2018 at 7:17 am

    I know Brooks professionally and have run into him on the speaking circuit from time to time.

    He’s a unique stripe–a well-regarded politician who gets things done.

    I’m both glad and grateful that he’s been looking after my county.



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