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Richard Sabaugh retires after decades in politics, public service

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published January 17, 2020

 After decades of work in politics  and government administration,  Richard Sabaugh has retired from his  post as Warren’s public service director.

After decades of work in politics and government administration, Richard Sabaugh has retired from his post as Warren’s public service director.

Photo provided by the city of Warren


WARREN — While serving as Warren’s public service director under Mayor Jim Fouts, Richard Sabaugh was known to take walks around City Hall at lunchtime. At midday on Jan. 16, he was getting ready to leave for the last time as a city employee.

“It was like a voice in my head said to me, ‘It’s time to go.’ I listened to that voice, as they say,” Sabaugh said.

At 82, with decades of experience in politics and public service behind him, Sabaugh said he recently told Fouts he was going to retire.

“I can boast that I was the one who told him to run for City Council after he had run for state rep and lost,” Sabaugh said. “I told him, ‘You can run for council and get elected.’ He got elected the first time he ran for council, and the rest is history.”

The mayor made the announcement Jan. 14, calling Sabaugh’s decision the “end of an era.”

“In my opinion, Richard is by far the most outstanding public service director in recent memory and maybe since Warren became a city,” Fouts said. “He was also a Macomb County commissioner for many years. He served as a public works deputy commissioner for several years. He was an excellent English and journalism teacher in the Detroit Public Schools.”

Sabaugh worked as a local television news public affairs writer and adviser, and later used that experience to produce political campaign literature for many candidates at the local, county and state levels. He was previously married to Carmella Sabaugh, who was elected to the Warren City Council and later to the positions of Warren city clerk and Macomb County clerk.

Fouts noted that Richard Sabaugh won some big races, and also lost some. He was elected to the Warren City Council, but lost a close race against incumbent Mayor Ted Bates in 1969.

Sabaugh helped his other brothers with successful campaigns for the Warren City Council and the Macomb County Board of Commissioners. His son, Matthew Sabaugh, was appointed to the 37th District Court bench by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and was twice reelected.

Fouts said he met Sabaugh in the late 1970s after several attempts to get elected to the Michigan House of Representatives. He confirmed that it was Sabaugh who suggested that he run for the Warren City Council. They’ve worked together over the years, but didn’t always agree or support the same candidates.

Fouts tapped into Sabaugh’s experience during the mayoral campaign in 2007 and appointed him to one of the top posts in his administration after he was elected.

“He hasn’t always supported me,” Fouts said. “I’ve had a good run with him as mayor, and somewhat before as a councilman, and he’s been very effective.”

He praised Sabaugh for reining in overtime and reorganizing various city departments, along with helping to draft the budget and major policy announcements.

There was no definitive word at press time Jan. 16 about his successor. Deputy Public Service Director Gus Ghanam holds the position directly below Sabaugh’s.

Sabaugh said the highlight of his last week at work was the reception he received at the mayor’s staff meeting.

In retirement, he said, he plans to spend time with family and travel to Florida during the cold-weather months. He said he intends to volunteer to assist with the Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential campaign while he’s down there.

“I’m sure he’ll survive Iowa and New Hampshire (primary elections). I’ll go down there, put my name in to volunteer, make some phone calls — nothing heavy duty, just help out wherever I can,” Sabaugh said.