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 Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter speak with reporters after eating lunch together at O’Connor’s Public House in downtown Rochester Sept. 5.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter speak with reporters after eating lunch together at O’Connor’s Public House in downtown Rochester Sept. 5.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

Oakland, Macomb county executives discuss issues over lunch

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 10, 2019


ROCHESTER — Newly appointed Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel recently met up to discuss politics, and both said it won’t be their last encounter.

They connected Sept. 5 at O’Connor’s Public House in downtown Rochester for their first official meeting since former Ferndale Mayor Coulter was chosen to succeed L. Brooks Patterson, who died of pancreatic cancer last month.  

What exactly was the meeting about?

There was speculation that the duo might discuss the potential for a regional transit system, something for which Coulter has publicly voiced his support in recent weeks.

“I’d like to get a transit plan in place,” Coulter said following the lunch. “It’s something that I’ve talked about for a long time. … I’m not wedded to any particular plan, so we’ll have to have conversations about what the plan looks like. It’s more important to me to have the right plan before the voters than when we get it before the voters.”

Although transit is one priority for Coulter in his role as county executive, he said the topic did not come up over lunch.

“Believe it or not, we just caught up on a lot of stuff. But those conversations will continue, and we’ll work on that and see if we can come up with something that makes sense,” he said.

“There really was no hot topic,” Hackel added. “It was really just (sharing) backgrounds, once again sharing how it got to this point, what Dave’s future might be, and my willingness to continue to work with him and the folks of Oakland County. It was almost like having lunch with one of my brothers, actually.”

The two have reportedly known each other for a long time. Hackel, 57, said he has a good relationship with Coulter, 59, who grew up in St. Clair Shores in Macomb County.

“I have always appreciated and admired him and had a great working relationship (with him),” Hackel said of Coulter. “I think he will serve the residents of Oakland County super well.”

“We had a great time,” Coulter added. “We had a great conversation. It’s important for all of us to work together and be on the same page, so we had a good chance to catch up and get to know each other a little better.”

For now, Hackel said his top priorities are Macomb County’s infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and figuring out how to pay for repairs and upgrades to the county jail.

“There isn’t a hole in Macomb County when it comes to transit, but yet I can see why there is such a need in Detroit, Wayne County, Washtenaw County, and even in Oakland. They don’t have the connectivity that they have in Macomb. … We will continue to talk about what those concerns are and try to figure out how Macomb County fits into that,” he said.

Hackel said their next lunch, which had not been scheduled at press time, will be in Macomb County, at a place he has already picked out — the Kabob House in Warren.

On Sept. 6, Coulter announced that he had assembled his transition team, whose job is to ensure a stable change in the county administration, according to county officials. The members of the Transition Advisory Group will also reportedly “leverage their diverse expertise to advise the county executive on how to build on Oakland County’s strengths and identify areas for improvement.”

“Their No. 1 job will be to give me an impartial evaluation of the direction my administration should take Oakland County,” Coulter said in a statement.

Some of the duties of the Transition Advisory Group will include providing counsel on filling available senior-level staff positions and appointments to boards and commissions; providing counsel on the county’s organizational chart to ensure efficiencies and prioritization; receiving a report on fiscal policies and advising on approving a balanced budget by Sept. 30; reviewing and evaluating current department priorities and programs; and advising on short-term and medium-term priorities.

The Transition Advisory Group includes Paul Brown, a partner at eLab Ventures, a member of the University of Michigan Board of Regents and the former vice president of capital markets for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.; Lisa Canada, the political and legislative director of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights; Sean Carlson, the executive director of the Michigan Defense Center, a small-business owner, the board treasurer for Huron Valley Schools, and a retired Air Force officer; Jaimie Clayton, the president and CEO of Oakland Family Services; Jeff Denha, the CEO of Brass Aluminum Forging; Marcia Gershenson, the vice chair of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners; Dave Hecker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan; Gilda Jacobs, the president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy; Glenn Macintosh, the vice president for student affairs and the chief diversity officer for Oakland University; and Mary Zatina, the senior vice president of government relations and community affairs for Beaumont Health.

The Transition Advisory Group will hold two meetings as a group and will work individually between meetings.