Oakland County Executive David Coulter set a collaborative tone and ambitious agenda to expand health care for county residents, ensure adults complete needed education and job certifications, move a county division and its staff to downtown Pontiac, and triple defense investment in the county by 2025.
Coulter outlined his “Oakland Together” plan Wednesday evening before a full house at the Flagstar Strand Theatre for the Performing Arts in downtown Pontiac.
“I believe the fact that Oakland does well means we have an opportunity – indeed a responsibility – to do better,” Coulter said. “We can leverage our strengths to tackle our challenges before they become problems. We can lead and innovate. We can be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money and forward thinking. To do that, we must be Oakland Together. Together as public servants working for the public good, together with our residents and businesses, and together with our region.”
Coulter emphasized important themes to many Oakland County residents and businesses – good government, maintaining the AAA bond rating, a balanced budget, providing services for an aging population, making housing more affordable, and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Coulter also announced a host of other priorities including working collaboratively with the Board of Commissioners, diversity, equity, inclusion, condemning hate speech, making Oakland County welcoming to new Americans and raising the minimum wage for county employees to $15 an hour. Coulter championed the passage of a non-discrimination policy for the county.
“This is the right thing to do morally and economically,” Coulter said. “Our businesses already understand the value of these policies in recruiting workers and serving their customers and we are catching up to the private sector.”
Coulter has traveled thousands of miles in the six months he’s been county executive, talking with residents and business owners about their concerns, interests and asking how the county can assist them. He also fit in a series of meet and greets around the county, which are ongoing. He said the state of the county was strong, determined and ready to shine.
“But good is not good enough for the type of county we all deserve,” Coulter said. “We’re working hard to make the quality of life even better. There is certainly no challenge we face in Oakland County that can’t be fixed by all that is right with Oakland County. There is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I think sums it up:
‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.’ What lies within us will launch Oakland County – every part of it – beyond its strong foundation and into the future we all want for ourselves and our families. I’m honored to be part of that effort.”
Coulter’s said his key initiatives will prepare the county for the future. They include:
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/DEFENSE AND AEROSPACE
Coulter touted Oakland County as the economic leader of Michigan, producing nearly 30 percent of the state’s jobs. On average, $1.5 million of new business investment is generated in the county every day. Working with private consultants, the county is developing a 10-year economic development strategy that will ensure economic opportunity for all. The goal is to:
- Diversify economy and provide jobs at all levels.
- Integrate with local, regional and state partners.
- Encourage small business to prosper, value women and minority-owned businesses and promote entrepreneurship.
Coulter announced a Defense and Aerospace Initiative to focus on growing the number of defense and aerospace contracts and jobs. He set a goal of $1 billion of investment by 2025 – three times higher than the county’s current level.
Coulter also announced that the county’s Division of Community and Home Improvement and all its staff will move into downtown Pontiac.
Coulter announced Oakland Health360 to close a major gap in the county health system. Through a partnership with Honor Community Health clinics in Pontiac and Southfield will offer comprehensive, integrated health care. Within 90 days of board approval, services will include general primary care, family planning services and dental care. When complete, this partnership will include mental and behavioral health services and a partnership with Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency to ensure residents have access to insurance coverage, Head Start early childhood education, prescription drug assistance and emergency services such as energy, food and housing assistance.
“If you come in one of our doors to have your child immunized or receive a lead screening, I want you to be able to have a cancer or diabetes screening, talk to a mental health professional, get assistance with prescription drug costs, have a dental checkup and receive primary care,” he said.
Coulter said there is intense competition among employers for a skilled and educated workforce. The county has strong K-12 education, higher education and a workforce development system. But many counties in neighboring states have surpassed Oakland County, requiring immediate action. A new initiative, Oakland 80, is committed to ensuring that 80 percent of our adults have a post-secondary degree or industry credential by 2030.
“We must ensure high school students obtain the financial assistance available to them, students who start college finish with a degree, and industry-recognized credentials are widely available,” Coulter said.
OAKLAND COUNTY VETERANS
Coulter pledged to use a state grant to ensure that the 60,000 county veterans and their dependents are aware of the federal, state and local benefits that are available to them. He asked Deputy Executive Sean Carlson, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, to oversee this effort.
HONORING DEPUTY SHERIFF ERIC OVERALL
Working with Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and the county board, Coulter announced the establishment of the Eric Overall Memorial Benefit to assist the families of employees who lose their lives performing their jobs. Overall was a Sheriff’s deputy who was fatally injured in 2017 when he was struck by a vehicle being driven by a man fleeing from law enforcement.
Oakland County’s fiscal discipline is a hallmark of good government. It is a primary reason for the county’s AAA bond rating, which has saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Coulter committed to keeping Oakland County’s strong fiscal foundation intact. The principles include:
• A competitive tax system for the county.
• Investments in critical infrastructure to protect our assets and encourage growth.
• A structurally balanced budget that addresses long-term liabilities.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Coulter presented J. David VanderVeen, director of central services, with the inaugural Oakland County Lifetime Achievement Award. VanderVeen oversees several county departments including the Oakland County International Airport, represents the county on the Oakland County Parks & Recreation board and has led the county’s winter festival, “Fire & Ice.”
“Dave is dedicated, collaborative and joyful,” Coulter said. “After 56 years he continues to inspire each of us every day and we are grateful for his leadership and friendship.”
Coulter, a longtime advocate for expanded regional transit, said during his remarks that transit would make the region more competitive economically and attractive to younger people who want transit options. He believes a successful plan would address community economic development needs, provide reliable transportation for workers, seniors and the disabled, embrace new technology and create flexible mobility options for all of Oakland County.
OAKLAND COUNTY BICENTENNIAL
Oakland County is celebrating its 200th birthday in 2020. A host of activities are planned throughout the year, including a birthday party on March 28 at the Detroit Zoo. The county will also be passing out 20,000 oak tree seedlings and presenting an oak tree to each community. The county was formed March 28, 1820 – 17 years before Michigan became a state.
Oakland County is grateful to its event sponsors which include DTE and Verizon (Silver Sponsors) and Auch Construction, Frank Rewold & Son, Kerr Russell, Oakland Community College and Redico (Bronze Sponsors), and United Shore (Supporting Sponsor).