Mackinac Island — I was sitting at a table in Horn’s Bar with Kwame Kilpatrick the night L. Brooks Patterson walked in wearing a bright, blinking earring, clearly mocking the youthful mayor’s propensity for bling.

A scowl crossed Kilpatrick’s face, but when his and Patterson’s eyes met, they both burst into wide grins. The Oakland County executive walked over and gave himself up for a bear hug.

Several years later, I was co-hosting a bourbon party on the grounds of the Grand Hotel, and our entertainment was the region’s Big Four, then made up of Patterson, Macomb’s Mark Hackel, Bob Ficano of Wayne County and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

It was to be a light-hearted play on the more serious roundtables featuring the four that had and have, truthfully, been done to death. They were all asked to bring the funny.

No worries for Patterson. He showed up with a three-ring binder of what can best be described as penis jokes, and began reciting them one after another. They were hysterical, but too raunchy for a Mackinac crowd not yet fully lubricated. I got a frantic signal to cut him off. As if. He just kept on rolling.

The next morning I called Patterson to warn him some of the more delicate members of the audience had been offended. His response: “Hell, Nolan, I cleaned up those jokes for you!”

After the automobile accident that left him in a wheelchair, Patterson told me he was passing on the annual trip to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference because getting around on an island with no motorized vehicles would be too big a challenge.

I offered to push his wheelchair up and down the hills. “Are you kidding me?” he asked. “A pretty girl will walk by and my wheelchair will end up in the harbor with me in it.”

All that is to say that Brooks has always been Brooks, and with the freedom that comes with not running for re-election, expect him to be even more so.

Like when he has a couple of drinks with a reporter and is quoted as calling Duggan a “creep.”

That recent comment set off speculation that Patterson, 79, is losing it.

Nah. I’ve talked to him. He’s still sharp. Still the same old mischief maker.

He’s never held his tongue. Never bowed to either politeness or political correctness. Never been reverent. Never let a good line go unsaid.

I told him once that if he were less quotable, he’d be governor. His tongue has always been his Achilles' heel.

Patterson has two more years on this final term, and if past is prologue, at the end Oakland County will be stronger, leaner and better prepared for the future than it is today. Patterson is the most successful and innovative politician in Michigan and for two decades he’s pushed his county relentlessly ahead.

Those who attack him for putting the interests of Oakland County before those of the region should understand that’s how he sees his job. Protecting Oakland is what he’s paid to do.

I don’t always agree with his stances, but I admire his resistance to being pressured into going along with the crowd when he believes the crowd is wrong.

Patterson won’t be on Mackinac this year, again for logistical reasons. He’ll be missed. But if I can convince him to part with that three-ring binder, I’ll do a dramatic reading at Horn’s in his honor.

Catch The Nolan Finley Show weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.

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