With his daughter by his side, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson returned to the Oakland County Executive Office Building in Pontiac for the first time since he was injured in an August crash.
Mary Warner, 36, accompanied her father into the Conference Center where the 73-year-old was greeted with signs that read “Welcome Back Brooks” and a standing ovation from his managers, chiefs and the media.
A tearful Patterson greeted the audience from a wheelchair. Looking much thinner and speaking softly he told the audience he managed to take 168 steps today and is determined to walk again. He recalled how
“They put in a new device—a blinking yellow—and people do not know that does not give you the right-of-way and he shot through that at full speed. He just creamed us.”
For 17 days after the accident, Patterson said he was out. He doesn’t remember much and that is one of the reasons he invited his daughter to speak at the press conference—to recall the early days of his hospitalization for the media. He also joked that his son, who is a chiropractor, advised him not to take any pain medication today saying it would compromise the county executive’s ability to speak.
“I disregarded what he said and I took the pain pills. I told him I was going to deal with this news conference in one swell poop,” Patterson said drawing a laugh from the audience.
“We knew Dad was back when the jokes started coming back,” said Warner.
'It’s Dad’s will to be here'
Like her father, Warner is witty and has a gift for public speaking. She spoke off the cuff about the ups and the downs the family endured during the five weeks her father spent in McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac after suffering almost a dozen broken bones.
“They gave him a 3 percent chance to live,” Warner said. “There is no other explanation for me and my family other than it’s Dad’s will to be here—and it is God’s will.”
Warner believes there is a reason her father needs to be here—there is something else he needs to do.
“He said to me, ‘I have done the Dobson Open, which I am very proud of. I have done the Brooksie Way, which I am very proud of. And, I have some other great ideas I need to do before I am done.’ As his daughter, I can’t wait to see the things he’s going to cook up for us in the next few years.”
While Patterson’s injuries have been a nightmare, it is clear the ordeal has brought him closer to his family. And, not one to wear his Roman Catholic faith on his sleeve, he said he has a new focus on religion.
Name recognition is enough
Patterson told the press he doesn’t plan to do much campaigning this week. If he were in the race for his first four-year term he’d be in trouble, but voters know him after 20 years, he said.
“I have seen some polls that my campaign has done and I think my name ID is at 99 or 98 percent. People say ‘Why don’t you get some signs out?’ For that 2 percent? I know where they live!” he joked.
Patterson faces Democrat Kevin Howley, of Huntington Woods, in his bid for re-election on Nov. 6.
“We’re really glad to see Brooks Patterson is back and we are especially happy that this experience drew him closer to his family, because at the end of the day it’s all about family,” Howley said by phone.
Setting that aside, Howley said there are still issues that need to be addressed in Oakland County.
“We really have had nothing new out of this administration. When the election is over, people are going to want some results, and clearly I believe I am the person to move Oakland County forward.”