Editorial: Bob Berg, R.I.P.

The Detroit News
Bob Berg is seen in the offices of his public relations firm, Berg Muirhead, in Detroit in 2009.

The one word you'll hear repeatedly as his friends and colleagues pay tribute to Bob Berg is "professional."

Berg, who died Wednesday at age 76, was a pro. 

The one-time press secretary to former Mayor Coleman A. Young built a successful, 40-plus-year career by building relationships based on trust and respect.

Berg, who formed his own communications firm after leaving the mayor's office, gained a reputation as a spokesman who could be trusted not to mislead or spin. When he spoke on behalf of his clients, he didn't blow smoke. He gave what facts he was authorized to give publicly, and then quietly worked to help the media understand the context.

He never burned bridges. If Berg said he was going to do something, you could count on it.

He returned to public life repeatedly to help subsequent mayors through communications challenges, and kept as his longtime client the Detroit public schools.

Few of his assignments were easy. But Berg handled them adeptly.

He came to Young's office after serving on the staff of former Gov. William Milliken from 1977-82. 

That he lasted 10 years (1983-93) on the hottest seat in the Young administration speaks to his cool-headed and dignified nature. Berg was rarely rattled. Nor did he engage in sparring with the press. He was never the story.

It's tough to hang on to a reputation in Berg's chosen business over such a long career. But Berg's was golden, and well-earned.