It couldn’t have happened to a greater county or a better leader.
The national spotlight fell on Oakland County as the current issue of Governing magazine, the nation's leading media platform covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders, saluted Oakland’s government and long-time leader, L. Brooks Patterson.
Publisher Erin Waters noted that “If you ask the average American citizen what part of our government owns and maintains 44 percent of the roadways and spends $68.3 billion on health-care services, I don’t think you will get the correct answer. If you ask a government employee
which government entity spends a combined $472 billion on law enforcement, education, construction and human services, a few might know, but many won’t.
“The answer, if you haven’t guessed, is America’s counties. They employ 3.3 million people and have 19,300 elected officials, but knowledge of what they do is woefully inadequate.”
Last month the National Association of Counties hosted its annual conference in Fort Worth. The event borrowed NACo’s current — and relevant — campaign, “Why Counties Matter.”
“I was honored to take part in the event and appreciated the opportunity to host a discussion with a few prominent county executives who are achieving results, despite challenging circumstances,” Waters wrote. She continued:
“Few leaders serve as better examples than the Oakland County, Mich., Executive L. Brooks Patterson. Oakland County shares a border
with Detroit, and Patterson has served the county for 21 years. He first entered government service as a public defender there, and during those 16 years, he never lost a case.
“Later, as county executive, he exhibited resiliency and good judgment in anticipating the economic decline and holding the county to a strict three-year rolling budget, which resulted in a $250 million surplus during a time when neighboring cities and counties were experiencing the opposite. Patterson believes in identifying and recruiting talented people and then stepping aside to let them do their job. He, along with fellow county executives in Ulster County, N.Y.; Athens County, Ohio; and Cook County, Ill., to name a few, are the best reflections of what counties do and why they matter.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. We just wish our national government would follow Oakland County’s example.