L. Brooks Patterson’s Jewish colleagues share their memories of the Oakland County executive who died of pancreatic cancer.
Oakland County’s longstanding executive, L. Brooks Patterson, died. Aug. 3 from pancreatic cancer. He was 80. After spending 16 years as Oakland County prosecutor, Patterson served as Oakland County executive from 1992 until his death. Sometimes controversial, especially when it came to the inflammatory language he used when speaking about Detroit, Patterson helped to boost Oakland County’s economy for a generation. He made the county a technology hotspot with the creation of Automation Alley, and he could boast 20 straight years of AAA bond ratings.
Several members of the Jewish community who worked closely with him had these remembrances.
“L. Brooks Patterson was a dedicated and passionate leader for Oakland County. His long public service career had a great impact on Oakland County and our region. My deepest sympathy goes to his family, friends and dedicated staff during this difficult time.”
— County Commissioner Helaine Zack, LMSW
“I think the public is not really aware of just how well the elected countywide officials all work together. And yes, over the years, there were moments — ‘nif-nahs’, if you will — when he would make a comment on a high-profile case. He would say in his gravelly voice, ‘I used to be the prosecutor in this county for 16 years.’ And I would say, ‘When you were the prosecutor, there were 10 laws and they were written on a stone tablet.’ He would pause and then he would laugh, and the moment was over.” — Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper
“My condolences go out to Mr. Patterson’s family. I had the opportunity to serve Oakland County with Brooks for 10 years, during which time I had a first-row seat for the Brooks Show. A capable administrator, at times a visionary, he was always interesting and often controversial. I’m grateful to him for his loyalty and service to Oakland County, while still being mindful that his legacy is mixed, especially regarding matters of race and gender equity.
“In 2008, when I first won the election for Prosecutor, it was the first time a Democrat had been elected for that office in more than 40 years. Brooks and I were obviously at opposite ends of the political spectrum. I was expecting a contentious reception, but Brooks was very congenial and gracious. Brooks was a very colorful character and there were many issues with which I disagreed, but most of the time we each piloted our own ships and worked together for the benefit of the county.” — Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner
“I’m grateful that I had the chance to get to know Brooks as more than just the man who often said things that I found offensive. He was strong-willed and a fierce fighter for Oakland County’s economic health and growth. He called me after Marty Knollenberg assaulted me at the State of the County and said he was sorry that that happened to me. I really appreciated that phone call.” — Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown
“Brooks was one of those one-name icons. He was funny, serious, innovative, hard-working and a tremendous leader. Relationships were important to him. Most importantly, he got along with the other side. Oakland County budgets were done on time and done three years in advance. He would always tell me the roads were not his responsibility. Brooks’ Jewish friends were numerous and he truly respected our community. In private conversations, he marveled at how the Jewish community got things done not only for themselves but others and counted on our community for various kinds of help. RIP Brooks!” — Jeff Sakwa, former vice-chair of the Michigan Republican Party