Wayne County treasurer set to retire

Joel Kurth
The Detroit News

Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz submitted paperwork to retire on Wednesday, paving the way for a new treasurer for the first time since the 1970s.

Wojtowicz, 86, a Democrat and former mayor of Hamtramck, had been treasurer for roughly 40 years and was last elected in 2012. A county panel consisting of Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Clerk Cathy Garrett and Chief Probate Judge Freddie G. Burton Jr. is expected to meet soon to appoint an interim treasurer.

County Register of Deeds Bernard Youngblood said Wojtowicz was one of the longest-serving officials in Michigan and is known for his intellect and uncanny memory.

“He’s the guy that old stockbroker commercial was modeled after, except they chose the name Hutton because they couldn’t pronounce Wojtowicz. When Ray speaks, everyone truly listens,” said Youngblood, referring to the E.F. Hutton ads in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Ray will truly be be missed. He retains everything. Even after 40 years, he can tell you what happened on July 16, 1979, during a meeting with Gov. (William) Milliken. He’s amazing.”

The News couldn’t reach Wojtowicz for comment. Former Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano called Wojtowicz a “true gentleman” and “very good keeper of the treasury for Wayne County.”

The resignation comes amid a wave of retirements amid fears that pensions could be cut during a consent decree with the state to lower the county’s deficit. Among others, Wojtowicz’s top lieutenant, David Szymanski, also has retired.

Wojtowicz earned praise from Mayor Mike Duggan and others for his work with distressed homeowners facing tax foreclosure, but others have criticized him because his office oversaw the foreclosure of more than 100,000 properties in the past 10 years.

“He took his oath of office and has to abide by the laws of Michigan,” Youngblood said. “I know it was very painful for him to carry out the oath, but he did the job he was elected to do.”

Ficano said Wojtowicz handled the economic downtown “as best as he could, with a lot of poise and leadership.”

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the revenue loss would be this bad and the breadth of it would be so wide,” Ficano said.

Over the years, Wojtowicz caught flak for collecting a bonus averaging $15,000 per year atop his $116,000 salary. State lawmakers put an end to the practice in 2012, ending an obscure law that allowed treasurers in office before 1999 from accepting the money. Wojtowicz defended the practice.


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