Huntington Woods resident and business executive Kevin Howley has announced that he will run as a Democrat for the office of Oakland County executive in the Nov. 6 general election.
Howley, 52, filed his candidacy Thursday for the position that has been held since 1992 by Republican L. Brooks Patterson, now in his fifth term.
"I really had gotten very frustrated over the past months, as a citizen," with the partisanship and lack of strategic thinking at the county level, Howley told Berkley Patch on Friday.
While the Ivy League-educated candidate has not previously sought elected office, he did serve as head of the Democratic Party in St. Paul, MN, during the early 1990s, with the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-MN, serving as his mentor. The Farmington Hills native also hasduring his decadeslong career as a business executive.
"Oakland County has a billion-dollar budget and I'm used to dealing with billion-dollar operations," Howley said. "I don't see this so much as running for political office. This is a managerial position that takes strategic thinking and innovative leadership."
Most recently, during his semi-retirement, Howley has worked as a transitional agent – breathing new life into financially struggling nonprofit organizations including Friends School in Detroit, a private Quaker school, as well as an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community center in Ferndale.
Howley said he is troubled by what he sees as a lack of long-term budget planning for Oakland County and political "shenanigans" that have cost the area development opportunities.
"It's great that we can balance a budget. We're a rich county," Howley said. "But, there's no strategic thinking around the budget."
He said rather than across-the-board cost reductions, he'd prefer a more nuanced approach that balances cuts with each department's contributions. Howley also said he'd like to see Oakland County diversify its economic base and do more to court venture capitalists such as Quicken's Dan Gilbert, who has helped spark a revival of sorts in Detroit.
“Oakland County is at a crossroads," Howley said in a news release announcing his candidacy. "Dramatic changes in the auto industry have altered the landscape here in Oakland County and we need to be much more strategic about our vision for the years ahead.
"We have great schools, a well-educated work force and a competitive cost of living, but income growth and employment levels in Oakland County are not improving at the same pace as comparable municipalities," he continued. "We have to do a better job of attracting businesses and investment capital to our County to take advantage of the infrastructure we have in place.”
Howley said Friday evening that he has been disappointed by the "partisanship" that has resulted in that would reduce the number of Oakland County commissioners as well as allow the commissioners to determine their own voting districts.
The bill drew approval from Patterson, who said Democrats' court challenge of the bill would be overturning the will of the people.
"The Democrats want to overturn the will of the people so they can maintain a larger, more costly government in Oakland County," Patterson said in a statement earlier this month. "A majority of the representatives of the people of the State of Michigan voted in favor of the bill to reduce the number of Oakland County commissioners which was signed into law by our duly-elected governor."
Howley also cited recent turmoil in Troy – in particular the city's decision to that was 12 years in the making and would have been completed using $8.4 million in federal money – as an example of politics getting in the way of progress.
"I feel like we've lost that view of 'Let's not make this partisan, let's make this about what's best for the county,' " he said.
Howley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay tuned to Patch for more general election coverage.