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Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson dies at 80

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published August 5, 2019

 Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson died Aug. 3, a little over four months after the longtime leader made public his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson died Aug. 3, a little over four months after the longtime leader made public his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


OAKLAND COUNTY — Before dawn Aug. 3, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson passed away in his Independence Township home, surrounded by family and friends.

The family made the announcement that afternoon, a little over four months after the longtime leader made public his stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis. He was 80 years old.

“It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of our friend and county executive, L. Brooks Patterson,” Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson said in a prepared statement. “He was a once-in-a-generation leader whose vision inspired all of us to be part of the best county government in America.”

Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown swore Poisson in as county executive Saturday evening, a position he will hold until a special election can be held to find an executive or until the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor, which it has 30 days to do. 

When Patterson announced his illness back in March, he told a crowd of reporters the diagnosis wasn’t a death sentence, but that he wouldn’t seek re-election at the end of his term, which ends in 2020. 

Around 11 percent of patients with stage 4 pancreatic cancer survive beyond two to six months. 

“Our dad was a courageous fighter all his life, and he fought right up until the end,” said Mary Warner, Patterson’s daughter. “Our family is grieving over the unimaginable loss of our father, grandfather, hero and friend. Many will remember him for his impact on Michigan and generosity toward Oakland County. We’ll remember him for his love and generosity toward his family and friends.” 

Condolences poured in from elected officials throughout southeast Michigan who at one time or another worked with the executive.

“Today is the end of an era in Oakland County. Brooks Patterson was a steadfast leader who safeguarded Oakland County’s fiscal stability in good times and in bad. His policies and focus on leading this county into the 21st century will never be forgotten,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a prepared statement. 

“Nobody ever fought harder for what he believed than my dear friend L. Brooks Patterson. At his core, he believed that government was about serving the people of the community, and he spent a lifetime in public service living up to that ideal,” Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said in a prepared statement.

While discussing the conclusion of his career back in March, Patterson referenced some of his prouder accomplishments over his 26-year tenure, including a consistently balanced budget and a AAA bond rating, maintained even through the Great Recession of 10 years ago.

His team also highlighted his initiatives to bring medical, auto and tech industries to Oakland County, and to preserve downtown entertainment areas in 32 Oakland County municipalities. The county is currently at less than 5 percent unemployment and enjoys the title of full employment, meaning anyone who wants and is able to work could have a job in the current regional economy.

But Patterson’s seven-term tenure as executive wasn’t without its controversies. 

In 2003, the executive came under public scrutiny after being pulled over by Oakland County deputies for erratic driving, a charge many suspected was a watered down drunken-driving offense. 

He was also in the spotlight numerous times for his frank and sometimes incendiary remarks, including criticism of the city of Detroit and, more recently, a 2016 legal challenge to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in Oakland County.

“With Brooks, we did not have to wonder what was on his mind — his quick wit and sometimes sharp tongue never left any doubt where he stood,” Bouchard said in his statement. “Whether you agreed with him on an issue or not, you always knew his unwavering concern had the best interests of Oakland County — first and always.”

Following a public memorial service in the Conference Center of the L. Brooks Patterson Building in Waterford — which took place after press time — Patterson’s family had planned a private viewing and funeral service Aug. 14-15 at Woodside Bible Church in Troy. 

On Sunday, Aug. 11, a tribute is planned at the Oakland County International Airport, 6500 Highland Road in Waterford, to honor Patterson with a missing man formation flyover during the airshow at the OCIA Open House and Air Show, beginning at 2 p.m.