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Van Pelt takes a top spot in county government

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published August 7, 2019

 Laurie Van Pelt

Laurie Van Pelt


OAKLAND COUNTY — Laurie Van Pelt, the Oakland County director of management, budget and chief financial officers, was named the deputy county executive Aug. 5. She is the first woman to hold the title.

Van Pelt was appointed to the job to replace the former deputy county executive, Gerald Poisson, who has stepped into the county executive role after the passing of longtime leader L. Brooks Patterson.

“Laurie has impeccable credentials and leadership skills,” Poisson said in a press release. “Her insights have made her an invaluable member of the team that has ensured the county retains its AAA bond rating by maintaining a balanced, multiyear budget. She also is well-respected among her colleagues and other elected officials.”

Van Pelt said she’s worked for Oakland County government since 1978, starting out in a clerical role for the 4-H branch. Over the years, she has risen through the ranks and has used the county’s education incentives to earn her bachelor’s degree in accounting and a master’s degree in finance from Oakland University and Wayne State University, respectively. She was the recipient of the 2010 Crain’s CFO of the Year title in the government sector category, and she’s consulted for other governments on financial management matters.

“I call myself homegrown,” Van Pelt said. “The county has just always been a great place to work, even more now than when I started. There’s such a variety of jobs, and if you’re willing to work hard and pursue your education, there are so many opportunities you might not have at a different company that only does one thing.”

Not only is Van Pelt the first woman to sit second in succession to the Oakland County helm, she’s also the first Japanese American to serve in the position. In March 2018, Van Pelt traveled to Japan as part of the U.S. Japan Council Japanese American Leaders Delegation, where she reportedly met with high-ranking leaders in government and business, including the prime minister and the foreign minister. She’s one of just three people from Michigan who have been selected to participate in the delegation since its inception in 2000.

As for what Van Pelt plans to do with her time as deputy county executive, she said she hopes just to continue the legacy her predecessors have created. That, and transitioning smoothly next year to a new administration — though that won’t include her as an elected official.

“I’ve been a part of the Brooks administration for a long time. I worked for the best boss and the best team, so that’s a hard act to follow,” she explained when asked if she’ll run to keep the seat in 2020. “I’m ready to move on (after this) and spend time with my family and grandchildren.”

Poisson also appointed Deputy County Executive Robert Daddow as chief deputy county executive Aug. 5. Poisson himself was sworn in as county executive Aug. 3 following Patterson’s death.