Detroit — Outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gave a passionate appeal for future state leaders to find common ground to continue Michigan's momentum.

"The greatest threat to our country is our lack of civility between one another," Snyder said Friday before the Detroit Economic Club. "...It's not about who is on the other side and why you should insult them or call them a name or anything else. What's the problem we are there to solve?"

The plea came as Snyder talked with DTE Energy Co. CEO Gerry Anderson, who is also the chairman of the economic club, about his tenure as a two-term governor and what Michigan can expect from the future.

The Republican governor said he was most proud that more young people are able to stay and be employed in Michigan and that Detroit is experiencing a comeback.

To ensure that progress continues, he said, parties will need to work together as Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, takes over with a Republican-majority Legislature.

"Start by finding two or three of these common-ground issues that you can show success on to avoid polarization," Snyder said. "There will obviously be some disagreement points on certain issues, but try to get some wins underneath your belt."

Oakland Community College Chancellor Peter Provenzano said Snyder has created a strong foundation to do so, pointing to initiatives such as the Marshall Plan for Talent grants and his support of community colleges.

"I felt thankful of all the great work he has done," he said. "And how he did so by bringing people together to turn Michigan around."

He also helped turn around manufacturing in the state, said Joe Steele, communications director at Detroit-based LIFT, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, a public-private organization focused on the development of lightweight metal manufacturing technologies.

When Snyder took office, the organization did not exist, and now the group has an upgraded facility in Corktown and demand for workers in the industry. 

"With the increased investment and programs for training, there is optimism for this continued growth," Steele said. "We really hope to work with the next Legislature and governor to improve and support manufacturing in the state."

Snyder said another opportunity for bipartisan cooperation is no-fault automotive insurance reform, the failure of which he said is one of his legislative disappointments, though he did not rule out partial reforms during the remaining weeks of his leadership.

"That needs to get solved," he said. "...I describe it not as a partisan issue as much, it's not an R and D issue as much as to me as it is about interests not coming together to comprise."

He added that challenges he faced incoming as governor, when Michigan's unemployment rate was more than 11 percent and people were fleeing the state, differ from the challenges facing Michigan now.

"One concern I do have about where we're at as we've come back now is that people are becoming more complacent and assuming good times just are a given," Snyder said. "Or I'm now seeing special interests say, 'Well, I've helped everybody get it together, now what's in it for me?' I appreciate that question, but how about let's ask, 'How do we win together?'"

Snyder also discussed his role in the Detroit bankruptcy. He defended his decision to pass the emergency manager law and put the city into bankruptcy five years ago.

"I needed to it that day," he said, "...or else the day after that and the day after that and the day after that would be even worse. Enough was enough... It was about the people of Detroit and how they deserved police protection, lights being on and trash being picked up."

Snyder did not address the Flint water crisis during the "exit interview," though following, he said there were failures on local, state and federal levels.

"You learn from things that didn't go right and try to be even stronger and better from that," he said.

As for Snyder's future, he said he is looking forward to a vacation and does not plan to pursue politics further in Michigan. Although he said he would be willing to provide advice in the future if called upon and that he hopes his time in office will be an example to those that follow.

"We need to speak up more, not just in terms of talking about the need for civility but being good role models for it," Snyder said. "That's where I'm proud. How many people have I called names in all these years? Haven't we gotten done more by not doing that?"

David Baker, a partner at Ann Arbor's Baker Strategy Group, recalled when he attended a campaign event at an Ann Arbor bar before Snyder was first elected.

"Two Democrats owned the bar," Baker said. "They spoke to the crowd, saying, 'We’re behind him because we believe he can solve these problems.' He demonstrated he has a voice that really can invite Michiganders together for a common cause, common purpose. In a large measure, I think he did."


Read or Share this story: