L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County’s longtime executive, passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 80. Patterson was serving his seventh term as Oakland County Executive and had been publicly battling pancreatic cancer since March.
The reactions to Patterson’s passing have spanned from glowing memorials from admirers to scathing critiques of his record on issues such as race and regionalism.
“He was who he was,” Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel tells Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today. “Some of the things he would say were very off-putting, I couldn’t disagree with that.”
“Even sometimes I would cringe,” Hackel says. “But it wasn’t that he wasn’t willing to come to the table. He was always willing to have the conversation. Sometimes people just didn’t like his style or his demeanor.”
“To talk about a man who amassed 50 years in public service and not talk about his history of bigotry and racism…is burying the lede,” says Ken Coleman, a Detroit-based author and civil rights, voting rights and education reporter at Michigan Advance.
“I believe that Brooks Patterson is probably the most notorious political figure in Michigan history,” says Coleman. “I think that his bigoted oratory and some of his racist actions place him higher than former mayor of Dearborn Orville Hubbard.”
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, a Democrat, is one of the officials hoping to become the county’s next executive. He offered a remembrance of Patterson on Facebook shortly after his death was announced:
“My prayers are with the family of my colleague Brooks Patterson who has gone to his eternal resting place this morning. Brooks should be remembered as a strong, effective leader who was always loyal to Oakland County. I learned a lot from him during our ten years serving together. Rest in Peace LBP, you’ve been a giant!”
“I’ve tried to be gracious and kind, acknowledging his loss,” Meisner tells Henderson on Detroit Today. “At the same time, right now is when his legacy is being formed… (Patterson) has been a barrier to getting a lot of policies in place to help a lot of the people on the lower end of the economic spectrum, but also policies that could help everybody,” says Meisner, giving the late executives opposition to regional transit plans as an example.
Detroit Today invited Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson, and Oakland County Commission Chairman Dave Woodward to join the program. Bouchard, Poisson, and Woodward are possible candidates for the Oakland County executive position. Bouchard did not return a request to join the show. Poisson and Woodward declined to join the program.
Click on the audio player above to hear Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, Detroit-based author and journalist Ken Coleman, and Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner talk with Stephen Henderson about late Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s life and legacy.