Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko dies of COVID-19

Mark Hicks Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Dearborn Heights officials announced Mayor Daniel Paletko's death early Wednesday.

City officials told The Detroit News the mayor's death was "sudden" from complications associated with the coronavirus. He was 70 years old.

Dearborn Heights Mayor Daniel Paletko

Paletko was hospitalized Monday for severe symptoms and received a positive test for the virus, his office told The Detroit News. He died at a local hospital.

Paletko "...seemed fine Tuesday night," his Executive Assistant Stephanie Shockey said.

The Paletko family declined to comment. His sister and daughters are working virtually with a funeral home to arrange a service, Shockey said.

Further details were not immediately available.

The longtime public servant's death prompted an outpouring of condolences from public officials.

"Dan Paletko was a kind man, dedicated public servant, and dear friend who worked with John and I for decades with a deep devotion to the Dearborn Heights community," U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said in a statement. "The suddenness of his passing is a devastating reminder of how vicious this virus can be. Every Monday I spoke with Dan about how to protect our constituents from this pandemic and tragically as he fought to keep his neighbors safe, the virus took his life.”

City Treasurer Lisa Hicks-Clayton wrote on Facebook that she was saddened to hear of Paletko's passing and asked the community for prayers.

"He served our community faithfully for many years," said Hicks-Clayton, who ran against Paletko for mayor in 2017. "God rest his soul."

Paletko was appointed mayor of Dearborn Heights in January 2004 after then-mayor Ruth Canfield retired. Paletko was elected to full terms in 2005, and again in 2009, 2013 and 2017.

“This is just too much," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. "Mayor Paletko was one of the first Wayne County mayors to befriend me, to work with me and to support me. The fact that the doors of Dearborn Heights were always open was a testament to his kindness, his openness, and his belief that we were one Wayne County and if Dearborn Heights benefitted, we all benefitted. He was the quintessential collaborator.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer posted a statement Wednesday morning on Twitter.

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mayor Dan Paletko," Whitmer wrote. "He was a committed public servant and an extraordinary colleague. My heart is with his family, friends, and the city of Dearborn Heights."

He previously served on the City Council from 1974-2002, and was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives, a post he resigned when he became mayor, according to Detroit News archives.

Paletko retired from Ford Motor Co., where he had been a financial manager. Paletko was a certified public accountant and had degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Detroit and Wayne State University, the city said.

Two years ago, on Christmas Day 2018, three vehicles at his home were vandalized. 

Paletko said then he believed the damage was done for political reasons.

"Absolutely, it was someone sending a message," he said at the time. "I don't know what that message would be, and I'm not sure why. Civility in politics, at all levels, is just getting worse and worse."

City Council chair Denise Malinowski Maxwell will assume the duties of the mayor's office until the council appoints someone to serve the remainder of Paletko's term, according to the city charter.

Malinowski Maxwell could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

With more than 3,500 cases of the coronavirus and nearly 100 deaths from COVID-19, Dearborn Heights continues to be one of the top suburban hot spots for the virus in Michigan.