Longtime Oakland County Executive Patterson dies of pancreatic cancer

By: - August 3, 2019 9:34 am

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson speaks at 2014 press conference for Proposal 1 Michigan Municipal League via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

L. Brooks Patterson, a GOP stalwart and longtime Oakland County executive who made a name for himself fighting busing in metro Detroit, died Saturday after a fight with pancreatic cancer.

L. Brooks Patterson

The Detroit News and multiple news outlets reported Saturday morning that Patterson, 80, died at 5:30 a.m. in his home in Independence Township.

“L. Brooks Patterson devoted his life to public service and the fruits of his leadership touched countless lives,” Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox said in a statement.

In March, Patterson announced at a press conference that he had “career-ending” stage 4 cancer and would not run for an eighth term in 2020. However, Patterson said he would finish up his current term, to which he was elected in 2016.

“This is not a goodbye,” Patterson said at the time. “I have every intention of coming back and finishing out the term.”

Patterson was elected Oakland County executive in 1992, but his career in Oakland County politics spanned a half-century, dating back to his time as county prosecutor in the 1970s and 1980s. He garnered significant attention representing a group fighting busing for racial integration, an issue that has come to the forefront in the Democratic presidential debates. Patterson frequently took shots at Detroit, even in recent years.

Patterson has ‘career-ending’ cancer, won’t run in 2020

Patterson unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1982, losing the GOP nomination to Dick Headlee, for which Michigan’s tax-limit amendment is named. Democrat Jim Blanchard won the general election.

Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald Poisson will now serve as county executive, the Detroit News reports, until either the Democratic-controlled Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor within 30 days or a special election is held.

Two Democrats, Oakland County Clerk Andy Meisner and county board Chair Dave Woodward are running in 2020. Oakland County has been trending blue in recent years and Democrats have been expected to have a good shot at taking the top office next year. Meisner remembered his in a Facebook post Saturday morning.


As for Republicans, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and former U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) have been viewed as possible contenders next year.

“Today, is the end of an era in Oakland County,” Bouchard said in a statement. “Brooks Patterson was a steadfast leader, who safeguarded Oakland County’s fiscal stability in good times and in bad.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey speaks at the auto insurance reform bill signing, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Patterson was eulogized by several other political figures on Saturday, including state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

“Brooks Patterson was larger than life.  He did not mince words nor suffer fools,” said Shirkey. “Brooks had a vision for Oakland County that made it one of the most prosperous places in the country.  He dedicated his life to public service and was a champion for his fellow citizens. Michigan has lost a leader and a visionary, but his legacy will live on.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) said Patterson was “always my friend.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 22-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ+ people, the state budget, the economy and more. She previously served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 90 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 5,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 80 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two kids along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.