From left: Westland Mayor Bill Wild, State Rep. Phil Cavanagh and Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Grosse Pointe Farms— The top five candidates vying for Wayne County executive answered questions Tuesday ranging from their vision of the county’s future to deficits and the sad state of county roads.
County Executive Robert Ficano, seeking his fourth term, touted his 30-plus years of public service. A deficit-elimination plan recently approved by county commissioners means the county is back on the right track, he said.
“We do have a plan that I got done,” Ficano said. “We will not have an emergency manager. We will not have a consent order because I was able to bring fiscal responsibility back to the county.”
Along with Ficano, the leading candidates at the Grosse Pointe Democratic Club candidate forum were state Rep. Phil Cavanagh of Redford Township, former Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans, Wayne County Commissioner Kevin McNamara of Belleville and Westland Mayor William Wild. In all, 11 Democrats are seeking the office.
Candidates took turns answering the same questions, many of which were about finances. The county is operating with a $175 million cumulative deficit.
Wild, touting his experience as a business owner and saying Westland is the only city in the county with a three-year balanced budget said, “I think we deserve better than what we’ve been getting out of the Wayne County Executive’s Office.”
The winner of the Aug. 5 primary is expected to claim victory in the heavily Democratic county in the Nov. 5 election.
Cavanagh said from Lansing, he sees how Republicans have been “beating down organized labor” and causing havoc for school districts.
“Things have gone amiss in the state of Michigan,” he said. “I opposed many, many things happening in Lansing but I was seen as a moderate. I was seen as approachable.”
The candidates also talked about transparency in county government in front of a crowd of about 200.
“I’m running because Wayne County government has become like a dinosaur. It’s become old, bloated and it feeds constantly just to sustain itself,” McNamara said.
The candidates said the lucrative pensions and appointee deals must change. Ficano said the pension deals, which have sparked a scandal in his administration, have changed.
Candidates also touched on getting more road funding from Lansing and finding ways to save money and streamline operations.
“The county’s not managed correctly,” said Evans, who added officials need to adjust priorities to deal with the finances available. “In Wayne County, the must-do projects are not being funded and the nice-to-do projects have gone berserk. And we are suffering because of that.”
Other candidates are Democrats Adam Adamski, Cindy Darrah, Russel Leviska, Bettie Cook Scott, Sigmunt Szczepkowski and Christopher Wojtowicz, as well as Republicans Fred Bolden, John Dalton and Daniel Wenderlich.
Wild has been endorsed by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has the support of Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr.
McNamara has received the endorsement of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party. Evans has the endorsement of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.