Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel is touting the county's improved budget in his bid for a second term, while opponent Republican David Novak is focusing on infrastructure improvements.

The winner in the Nov. 4 general election will fill a four-year term running a county that is rebounding from the recession and an implosion of the housing bubble.

In August's primary election, Democrat Hackel, 52, ran unopposed, while Novak, 47, bested two candidates by capturing 48.6 percent of the vote.

Hackel said that among his accomplishments as executive he's most proud of balancing the county's budget. The executive's office proposes a budget, but it must be approved by the Board of Commissioners.

"One of the things that is overlooked is the fact that we have turned our finances around in Macomb County," Hackel said. "Which is an incredible story in and of itself."

Under Hackel, Macomb eliminated a $60 million deficit and balanced its budget. But that meant major sacrifices that began before Hackel took office, including eliminating 450 positions since 2006 and furlough days for union and non-union workers.

In November, Standard & Poor's lowered Macomb's AAA+ debt rating to AA+. Standard & Poor's said the economic downturn had a pronounced effect on the region's economy and cited Macomb's low property values, high unemployment rate and low income levels as the reason for the lowered rating.

"There is so much that we have done to raise the profile of Macomb County and get recognition within the region and statewide," he said.

"I think it is because of this new form of government and efforts that have been put forth to really showcase what we have and what it is that we are all about."

Before Hackel was elected, Macomb did not have a county executive position; the county was run by a 26-member commission.

Spearheaded by Hackel, Michigan's first-ever $13.5 million integrated communications and operations center, called COMTEC, opened in December. The center incorporates local police and fire dispatchers, and the roads, information technology and emergency management departments. Clinton Township and Sterling Heights have contracted to join the system.

The county is also consolidating animal control, having taken over services for St. Clair Shores and Mount Clemens, Hackel said.

For Novak, there is much more to be done in the county.

If elected, Novak said he would form a good working relationship with commissioners, other elected officials in Macomb and the county department heads.

He added he would also focus on such issues as repairing roads, police and public safety, emergency preparedness and water and sewer.

"I would then get to work on the county budget and how to best pay for the unfunded liabilities for retiree health care," Novak said.

He said he would also "review infrastructure needs and how best to pay for these needed repairs and upgrades."

County officials are considering a plan to issue $295 million in bonds to cover part of an estimated $550 million unfunded retiree health care liability. Hackel said the health care costs deficit hadn't been addressed in a decade.

Novak, a lifelong county resident, was raised in a blue collar family in Roseville, he said. He enlisted in the Army at the age of 17, serving six years. He works as a corporate account executive for an indoor environmental quality company.

The Chesterfield Township resident has been involved in local politics as a precinct delegate and ran unsuccessfully in 2010 for a seat in the state House of Representatives to represent Macomb and St. Clair counties .

"I want to help expand on the opportunities that Macomb can offer to the business owners and give them a reason to invest in Macomb," Novak said.

"I would also like to help create an environment where employees can keep more of their hard-earned income, by lessening the burden of an over-bloated government intent on spending more and more and taxing more and more to pay for these bad habits."

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Other issues

■There are Board of Commissioners races in each of the 13 districts.

■Judge races for 16th Circuit Court and 37th District Court.

■Twelve candidates are running for six Board of Trustee seats for Macomb Community College.

■Elect a county charter commission to revise the Home Rule Charter.

■Millage proposals for street and road repairs and related improvements are on the ballot in St. Clair Shores, Harrison Township, Fraser and Memphis.

■There are millage proposals for police protection in Washington Township and funds for the operation and maintenance of advanced life support services in Armada Township.

■District funding issues are before voters in Almont Community Schools, Chippewa Valley Schools, Fraser Public Schools, Lake Shore Public Schools, Romeo Community Schools, Utica Community Schools and Warren Woods Public School.

■President, clerk and trustee races in New Haven, Romeo.

■School board races in Anchor Bay, Chippewa Valley, Clintondale, Fraser, L'Anse Creuse, Lakeview, Mount Clemens, New Haven, Romeo, Utica and Warren Consolidated.

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