Chambers named first female chief deputy county executive

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published August 26, 2019

 Hilarie Chambers, of Pleasant Ridge, will serve as the first female chief deputy executive in Oakland County.

Hilarie Chambers, of Pleasant Ridge, will serve as the first female chief deputy executive in Oakland County.

Photo provided by Bill Mullan, media and communications officer for the Oakland County Executive’s Office

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Not long after former Ferndale Mayor David Coulter was named the new Oakland County executive, he announced his pick for his chief deputy.

And she’ll be the first woman in county history to take the seat.

Hilarie Chambers, of Pleasant Ridge, currently serves as the chief of staff for Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and before that she served now-retired U.S. Rep. Sander Levin for more than 25 years.

In her new role as chief deputy executive, Chambers said, she’s looking forward to honing in on her own county for the next part of her career.

“I’ve spent my adult life living and working in Oakland County, and the county has really established itself for implementing solid and strong initiatives here,” she said. “I’m looking forward to joining David on this endeavor.”

Chambers said that having Coulter in the driver’s seat for Oakland County — the first time a Democrat has done so since the position was created in 1974 — is one of the main reasons she took the gig, because he’s respected on both sides of the aisle for getting things done.

The feeling is mutual.

“Hilarie has the experience, relationships and skills to help continue the county’s momentum of strong management,” Coulter said in a press release. “She knows how to bring levels of government together to best serve residents. I have worked with her in multiple ways over the years and look forward to having her on our team as we chart a continued positive path for Oakland County.”

First on the agenda, Coulter and Chambers agree, should be making sure the transition between leadership teams is a smooth one.

Second: Nail down that budget Coulter’s predecessor, L. Brooks Patterson, was known for.

“He’s been a dominant force in southeast Michigan for decades. It’s important we respect his legacy and reflect that in our transition, finish the work with the budget, and get that done in a unanimous way that all of the county departments are (satisfied with).”

And as for her historic title as the first female chief deputy in Oakland County? In this area, she’s pleased to say that the milestone isn’t as shocking as it might be in other communities.

“There’s some attention paid to the notion that I’m the first woman in this position, and as I reflected on that, I thought that, thankfully, in Oakland County we’re long past that being perceived as having any bearing in what I do,” she said.

Before the shakeup in the Oakland County Executive’s Office that led to Coulter’s appointment, then-acting Executive Gerald Poisson had named Laurie Van Pelt — the longtime director of management and budget and chief financial officer for Oakland County — as deputy county executive. She accepted the position and was the first woman to hold that title as well.

Van Pelt has since retired, according to Bill Mullan, the media and communications officer for the Executive’s Office. He cited her desire to spend more time with her grandchildren as the reason for Van Pelt’s departure. 

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