Ex-state rep faces Patterson in Oakland County exec bid

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Former State Rep. Vicki Barnett is challenging L. Brooks Patterson for the Oakland County executive seat.

The Farmington Hills Democrat said she filed paperwork with the Oakland County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday.

“I’ve lived here my entire life and I’m excited to take on the challenges of the 21st century,” said Barnett, who served in the Michigan Legislature from 2009-14. “We need to stop being an impediment to regional cooperation and actually lead the conversation.”

Patterson, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday night, has said he planned to seek a seventh term. He oversees an $826 million annual budget and a workforce of nearly 4,300 employees, according to the county website.

Barnett, a former mayor of Farmington Hills who worked in investment consulting, called him “a great leader for the county in the 20th century, but it’s time to move aggressively with two feet into the 21st century. And that takes regional cooperation and leading the conversation … where Oakland County spearheads a wonderful, vital future for our citizens of all ages. And right now that conversation is not happening.”

Among her proposals: addressing poverty and boosting mass transit. “It will attract young people in droves that we’ve been bleeding to other metropolitan areas across the country,” Barnett said. “It will allow our seniors ... to transport themselves to the services they need.”

Barnett, who was minority vice chairwoman of the state House Tax Policy Committee, also criticized Patterson’s plan to widen Interstate 75, what he called “Oakland County’s Main Street.” She advocates reinvesting in cities.

“Our ‘main streets’ are in the myriad of small communities that dot Oakland County that have been struggling to make ends meet, that are creating small businesses and great little venues for people to shop and eat and high quality-of-life businesses,” Barnett said.

During his State of the County address in February, Patterson said the county’s multi-year budget is balanced through 2021. He added that the the county had not only survived the Great Recession but reached a goal of “full employment due to our economic diversification.”

“To put it bluntly: The state of Oakland County is strong, amazingly strong,” Patterson said.