Interview With Brooks Patterson – Oakland County Executive L Brooks Patterson interview where he discusses long-range Oakland County economic forecasts, Brooksie Way, life in Oakland County, and much more.
Interview With Brooks Patterson
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Thanks for letting us come out and discuss the upcoming Brooksie Way.
Brooks Patterson: “Back in ’07 we had started Oak Fit which is really more for our campus, we have over 4,000 employees but it spilled over into the communities which I hoped it would. It’s basically a program just to get the employees more fit. The statistic is that we cut down the referrals to doctors and emergency rooms 17%. A healthy workforce cuts back on absenteeism and you have a more productive workforce. It started with that basic concept of good health results in good employees. To add to that, I came up with this idea. Let’s have something that they’ve had in Flint for 32 years, and that’s the Crim Races. Bobby Crim is still alive and is a good friend of mine and I’ve watched it expand to 20,000 people. In my state of the county address on February 7, ’07 I said let’s have our own half marathon and copy what the Crims have done so well now for 32 years. They heard me mention their race in my state of the county address and contacted us and we partnered up. After some negotiations, the Crim folks really do run the Brooksie Way. We split the proceeds and the costs 50/50.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Well you hit it out of the park the first year (last year).
Brooks Patterson: “What I know about racing, I tell people when I speak at different events, I figured you got 3,000 of your closest friends you fire off a gun and everyone ran like hell (laughs). No! You’ve got course certifications, you have timers, to be a certified race there are all kinds of things you have to do. That was on February 7th. Unfortunately, February 10th of that year, my son was killed in a snowmobile accident so the committee at the first meeting decided to name the race after Brooksie. At the eulogy, his brother in-law Gary got up and said ‘when you do things, give it 110% and do it the Brooksie Way’. He picked up on that theme. Sure enough the first year of the race, which became October of ’08, we had 4,000 runners which made it the largest inaugural race of it’s kind in the history of Michigan. This year we’re building on that success. We’ll probably have 4,500.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Your race seems “fun” in comparison to other half marathons.
Brooks Patterson: “This is pure fun. We want it to be fun but we’re also bringing in elite runners. This race is serious. We’re bringing in Bill Rodgers (he’s the runner from Boston), the Hanson brothers, Greg Myers who ran in the Olympics… We added a 5K and this year we added a 1 mile family walk. We’re trying to get participation at all levels.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Is the 1 mile family run an extension of your Count Your Steps Program?
Brooks Patterson: “Not really but it’s all related under the umbrella of improving health. I go to a “health retreat,” it’s really something people less seriously would call a “fat farm” (laughs). It’s the Pritikin Health Center in Florida. It’s a diet. During the day, after you work out, you go to lectures about health. One of the guys said that the children born in this generation will for the first time in history not live as long as their parents because of the effects of childhood obesity. I came home and said that’s unacceptable. So, we raised money and purchased pedometers for some 28,000 3rd and 4th graders. The kids love it. The parents love it. Now, they get out and walk. It’s all under the umbrella of health care and trying to get a healthy community. When you hear about kids not living as long as their parents, it tells you we really are feeding our kids the wrong foods.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – On that topic, when your children were younger, what types of fun things did you do with them in Oakland County?
Brooks Patterson: “I had no problem entertaining my kids, we lived on a lake. There was swimming, there was boating, there was skiing. A mile and half north was Pine Knob in the wintertime. The kids were all excellent skiers. Brooksie was exactly that kind of a kid. He would go out and climb, hike and hunt and fish.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Can we ask why you’re not running for Governor?
Brooks Patterson: “Sure. I thought about it. I run a pretty good county thanks to my team. It’s just that we have so many things on the fire here. We’ve got a lot of economic development programs that are in their infancy. Things we just initiated. The Emerging Sectors which is my economic development program. I’m not done yet. I’d be leaving with a lot of stuff still on the fire.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – So where do you see Oakland County heading?
Brooks Patterson: “Well, Oakland County is not immune from what’s going on in the economy of this state but we’re light years ahead of many other places. We still have foreclosures here that are higher than we’d ever thought we’d see but we’re going to come out of it. We just passed a budget Thursday of last week which is not only in balance for the upcoming fiscal year 2010 but it’s the only budget in America that’s balanced for 3 years. Jobs will be back but the property values will still be sluggish. My guys are telling me that we probably won’t be back to the 2002 home value until 2019 or 2020.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Do you see any upswing yet?
Brooks Patterson: “Not in property values. In jobs, yes. The second half of next year 2010 you’ll start to see it. By 2011 we’ll actually be creating more net jobs than we lose.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Have you seen it effect you personally in this building?
Brooks Patterson: “Oh yeah. We’ve had to make cuts. Reduce our workforce. Everyone from me on down took a 2.5% pay cut. We’ll take another 2.5% next year.”
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Do you think Michigan (or rest of the country) should try to emulate some of what you and your group has done in Oakland County?
Brooks Patterson: “I really do. What we do here can be easily emulated in Lansing. Some of our commissioners actually serve as legislators. Why they don’t take our ideas up there, maybe they do and they don’t get any traction. For instance, our budgeting practices. We’re AAA rated by Wall Street. They say we’re the best managed county in America. Why not take what we do? It’s not rocket science. It just takes some talent. I share the talent.”
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