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Tom Watkins
Tom Watkins

Praise for Pat Babcock

May 12, 2017 

Though many years have passed since he held the position, all the subsequent directors who have held the top job in Michigan’s ever-evolving State mental health and human services fields stand on his shoulders.  Pat Babcock—“Mr. Everything” for Governor Milliken—was a carryover to the Blanchard administration.  I admired him greatly and he later became my mentor.  Pat served Milliken in several capacities, including Director of the Office of Drug Abuse & Alcoholism, Director of the Office of Services to the Aging, Executive Assistant for Legislative Affairs, Special Counsel to the Governor/ Secretary to the Cabinet, Director of the Department of Labor, and Director of Mental Health. 

In fact, Pat was so well thought of by people under the Capitol Dome that the Michigan Legislature changed the law to allow a non-MD to become the Director of the Michigan Department of Mental Health.  Under Pat’s tenure, he steered the state in leadership positions, assisting two governors in the provision of service to the most vulnerable citizens of Michigan.  His values of integrity and human decency were the foundations of all the work he did and, indeed, the model for all who came after him. 

As a young graduate student at WSU in the late 70’s, I marveled at this icon of human service who spoke and acted with such force and passion about doing what was right and decent for people in need, especially people with serious mental illness, children with emotional difficulties, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and persons with substance use disorders.  Little did I know at the time that in three years I would be serving as his deputy of administration at the then-Michigan Department of Mental Health.  He helped spark in me a lifetime of admiration, friendship and service. 

 Well Respected

 Governor Milliken had this to say about Pat: “Pat Babcock has been a highly respected expert on a broad cross-section of public policy issues in Michigan for many years.  I was fortunate to have him as a trusted member of my administration.  Pat played a key role in developing and implementing a number of important policy initiatives, particularly in the human services area.  I found him to be consistently thoughtful, reliable and very knowledgeable about the issues we confronted.  His career exemplifies the best in public service and I am proud to have been associated with him.” 


Pat Babcock, Governor Milliken’s “Mr. Everything” 

Former Governor James Blanchard added, “I knew Pat when I was in Congress. He had a great reputation in the human service area and came to D.C. often. Pat had the reputation of working well with both parties. All my Democratic friends really trusted Pat, as did Bill Milliken. So he was a natural for our team: A voice of compassion and experience. Extremely helpful. Dedicated public servant who deserves recognition for his years of service.”

There are many that know of, and appreciate, Pat Babcock’s service to Michigan.  Jim Haveman, who had two stints in the health and mental health field, as well as an expanded role under Governors Engler and Snyder, praised Babcock saying, “Pat as a director and leader had a style that was unique.  He was a listener, he was calm, he practiced tolerance and demonstrated compassion.”  Haveman continued, “Pat made sure that what was best for consumers was always the starting and the ending point in all he did.”

Nick Lyon, the current Director of Health and Human Services had this to say: “I am very appreciative of those who came before me whose leadership helped establish the foundation for positive change that can occur today.   Pat’s leadership in his many roles was shaped by his belief that all people should have an opportunity to succeed, and his ability to work with both sides of the aisle for the betterment of those that are most in need in our society still serves as an example of what we can do if we work together.”

William Rustum, who recently retired as Governor Snyder’s Policy Director, wore many hats for Governor Milliken, including:  Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs, Special Assistant for Environmental Affairs and Chair of the Governor’s Policy Council.  He describes Babcock this way:  “Pat was key in finding bipartisan solutions in a divided legislature on behalf  of Governor Milliken.  He did not believe in “No” and was exceptionally persistent in finding ways to find solutions to tough problems.” 

Bill Long, another key Milliken staffer and good friend of Pat’s to this day, remembers him this way: “Pat has been my mentor, role model and one of my closest friends during the last 45 years.  His integrity, honesty, work ethic, and dedication to sound public policy has given me, and I think many others, an example to try to live up to.  He’s one of those quiet, often behind the scenes people, who has made a tremendous positive impact on our public services.”  

Add Value and Make a Difference

Every administration has its challenges as it navigates the limits of budgets and ideological and political pitfalls that challenge Democrats and Republicans alike under the Capitol Dome.  Each administration also has a few standouts, like C. Patrick Babcock, who quietly and methodically add value and make a difference for countless individuals who rely on the wisdom and human capacity for government, to be humane and serve those in need.

Closer to Home

Babcock’s three daughters, Lisa, Jennifer, and Jill burst with pride when talking about their dad.  Collectively, they said, “As his daughters, we understand he was very important to the residents of the state of Michigan. We shared him with our neighbors so he could do what was right for the community and all of the people in the state. On top of that, he had a great sense of humor and raised us accordingly.   Now the three of us are attorneys and policymakers who try to also be as committed to equality and fairness as he is.”

In addition to being a great dad and granddad, C. Patrick Babcock is a good man.  Many, including myself, have stood on his shoulders as we collectively tried to make Michigan a great place to live, work, play and raise a family.

Thank you, Pat.

Tom Watkins  career cuts across the public and private sector in leadership positions, including: President and CEO of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, FL., State Superintendent of Schools and State Mental Health Director, Michigan, China business and educational consultant and President and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. He can be emailed at: tdwatkins88@gmail.com, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88

 

May 11, 2017 · Filed under Tom Watkins

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 LAWRENCE M GLAZER // May 12, 2017 at 10:16 am

    As Governor Blanchard’s legal advisor I had the pleasure of working with Pat Babcock on several initiatives, and getting to know him then and subsequently. Relentlessly focused on sound public policy, he is a person of integrity and Michiganders have been fortunate to have this wonderful man’s services.

  • 2 Jim Dehem // May 12, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    This is a great article about a very great man. I came into the field of developmental disabilities in the 70’s when pat Babcock was the Director of the then Department of Mental Health. Much like Tom Watkins writes, I was a rookie in the field but was fortunate to meet Pat in my first job as a state employee of the DMH. He along with Governor Milliken and followed by Governor Blanchard led a non-partisan effort to enable people with developmental disabilities to be recognized as citizens deserving of a life like anyone else and included in their home communities. They were the first of many great leaders in Michigan who put our state far above all others in how and where people with disabilities should live and participate in our communities. Pat still gives his time and support to those of us who decades later are continuing his passion for full dignity and citizenship among all Michiganders who happen to have disabilities. Thank you Pat and thank you Tom for reminding us and teaching others of the need for members of both parties to work together for those who need public support.

  • 3 Liz Bauer // May 13, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Tom’s overview of Pat Babcock’s contributions to the people of Michigan and, indeed, the nation is welcomed. Those of us who had opportunities to work for and with Pat know him as a compassionate leader. Pat could “work” the political process with integrity as he never lost sight of the hopes and dreams, needs and desires of people who would be affected by political and administrative decisions. Policy is best when it is informed by the people it affects and Pat always had time to listen to those individuals. Everyone he meets is treated with dignity and respect.
    And no account would be complete without stating what a hard worker he was. Meetings with advocates, politicians, the general public began as early as 6 a.m. at the old Parthenon restaurant. I would see the lights on in his office at midnight. No job was too tough, no distance too far, no hour too late when the well-being of the people he served was at stake.

    I was privileged to work for him as Director of Training at Plymouth Center on the Consent Decree Implementation and later as Director of Community Placement in Wayne County at the beginning of the transition to community-based services. In 1981 I left DMH to become Executive Director of Michigan Protection and Advocacy Services, Inc. the federally and state mandated rights protection system for people with disabilities of all types. A role in which we held the DMH accountable on many measures.
    Regardless of the working arrangement -employee or outside advocate – our personal relationship remained open and positive. That’s because we shared a vision of community inclusion, dignity and respect for all people.

    Pat is truly a great public servant in the best meaning of that term. So nice to see this summary of his qualities and contributions in Dome.

  • 4 jon // May 16, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Nice article Tom, we definitely need more people like Pat.

  • 5 John Sanford // May 16, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Tom, I just wanted you to know, I thought you did an outstanding job in your article on Pat Babcock. Needless the say, he was outstanding as the director and I too stood on his shoulders. Thanks for writing such an outstanding piece.

  • 6 Dennis Paradis // May 18, 2017 at 11:09 am

    I fully agree with your praise for Pat Babcock. Pat has the attributes of a true public servant. He worked for the citizens of Michigan but shunned accolades for himself. Most importantly, he could disagree with people without disrespecting them.

    There are many of us who did not stand on his shoulders but who learned by his example.


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