Wednesday, June 29 2022

Today, Evans, 73, is set to run for a third term as county executive this fall, 52 years after joining the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy.

In a recent interview at his office in the Guardian Building, Evans discussed why, after nearly 40 years in law enforcement, he decided to step into the executive role when Wayne County was on the brink of financial collapse.

“I knew in 2014 that the county was in dire economic straits,” Evans said. “There was no question in my mind, it was just, ‘how deep is the hole?’ “When you work somewhere for 30 or 40 years and their reputation falls apart, you feel like I don’t want to waste those years. I didn’t think county employees should take a long-term hit for mistakes or problems that others created.”

Once he took office, Evans’ record made a difference, to county employees and voters.

“I ran for sheriff multiple times and dealt with collective bargaining units,” he said. “When you get into tough negotiations with a bad financial situation, it helps to let people know each other. So the early negotiations were helped simply because people had a pretty clear idea that when I said, ‘This is all we can do,’ this is all we can do.”

Evans wanted to avoid bankruptcy and knew there would be no repeat of the so-called “big deal” that raised more than $800 million in foundation donations to protect city-owned works of art and prop up city workers’ pensions as part of Detroit bankruptcy. approval.

His advice to those in a similar situation: find an objective third party. Evans, a Democrat, contacted Oakland County’s top executive, L. Brooks Patterson, a Republican, and borrowed from Patterson’s assistant and financial genius, Deputy County Executive Bob Daddow.

“We were able to come up with a plan, and I took all the information, the worst of the worst from Bob Daddow and everyone else, and I must have emailed it to every human being in a position of power in Wayne County, saying: This is the problem we have. Here is the supporting documentation related to the problem.’

“We knew that everyone was tired of bankruptcies and employees were scared to death. I think we were able to do it because we were open and honest about the level of debt, we got a good financial team and we pulled it off.”

The fiscal results: six consecutive annual budget surpluses; more than $1 billion in cost cuts from the renewal of employee and retiree health care obligations; and achieve investment-grade bond ratings.

“Our bond rating was so bad for a while: I think we were borrowing money at 6.5%, 7%. The rate is now at least 3 percentage points lower,” Evans said.

“As things get better, we want to be able to give back to employees,” Evans said. “We can’t go back, but in recent years we have increased employee salaries relatively significantly and we can start to attract people.”

Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, who introduced Evans at the recent event, summed it up this way: “Warren Evans has executed one of the most impressive turnarounds of a public entity, and he did it without fanfare or parade, through intelligent leadership, strong, not flashy but effective”.


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