Macomb, Oakland county executives discuss Coulter's political future
Rochester — Newly appointed Oakland County Executive David Coulter and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel met for lunch Thursday and agreed it could lead to more meetings.
The two Democrats were all smiles as they left O’Connor’s Public House on Main Street in Rochester’s downtown business district. Coulter, just a couple weeks into his position, extended the invitation to Hackel, who quickly accepted because he enjoyed a “trusting” relationship with Coulter’s predecessor, the late L. Brooks Patterson, and he expects to enjoy a similar, solid relationship with Coulter.
“Nothing really to report,” Hackel told reporters gathered outside the eatery.
“The best thing to come out of this is he (Hackel) paid for the meal,” cracked Coulter.
The casual, bread-breaking session was not expected to create anything revelatory although rapid transit fans are hoping Coulter, who argues there is a need for a regional system, can persuade Hackel to be more receptive. Hackel, like Patterson, does not see any great need for a taxpayer-financed regional system.
Hackel and Patterson supported buses operating across their counties and expressed reservations about prior tax increase proposals for regional mass transit, while officials in Wayne County and Detroit envision a transit system linking all of Metro Detroit.
Patterson said he wouldn’t support anything that his county constituents were not fully in favor of, noting several rural northern Oakland County communities had opted out of the SMART bus system.
“We will be talking about it (transit) in the future,” said Hackel, later stressing to reporters “every community in Macomb County contributes to SMART.”
Coulter has said while regional transit is important, his priority right now is structuring the county’s nearly $1 billion-a-year budget and maintaining Oakland County’s AAA bond rating. Hackel said Macomb County’s priorities are “roads and bridges” and figuring out how to pay for repairs and an upgrade of the county jail.
Hackel, 57, said he has known Coulter, 59, for years as a county commissioner and Ferndale’s mayor and described himself as an admirer.
"I was surprised and pleased that (Oakland County commissioners) appointed him as county executive," said Hackel. "I had run into him the day before at Brooks's funeral, and nothing was said about it then."
Hackel said some of the half-hour conversation touched on Coulter’s political aspirations. Coulter, who planned to run for state representative in 2020 while Ferndale mayor, has not decided his next step after completing the remainder of Patterson’s term, which expires at the end of December 2020.
Hackel said he thought Rochester’s downtown was a good place for them to meet Thursday but their next lunch — still to be determined — will be in Macomb County.
“I know of a good kabob restaurant in Warren,” Hackel said. “It will be there.”