After serving 12 years as treasurer, I want to thank the people of Oakland County for entrusting me with this important mission during auspicious times. My focus has been on providing authentic, compassionate and financially-prudent leadership, learning many lessons along the way.
I came in during the foreclosure crisis, which was hurting home ownership, neighborhoods and property values. That’s why I restructured the office to expand our foreclosure-fighting capacity by bringing homeowners, housing counselors and lenders together to prevent mortgage foreclosures, and created a new system of user-friendly payment plans to prevent property tax foreclosures. We helped tens of thousands of families save their homes, while recovering millions in revenue for the county and local governments.
People often come to the Treasurer’s Office in financial crisis, which is why we created our Financial Empowerment Center to connect those facing hardship with the wrap-around services they need to overcome housing, finance, credit repair, and health challenges, or help getting their taxes prepared. The Center’s mission expanded with an entrepreneurial bootcamp to help entrepreneurs of all stripes start and grow their small business. Each of these resources proved particularly helpful in the wake of the pandemic, and many were made available through partnership with organizations like JVS, the Accounting Aid Society and many others.
I dedicated my time as Treasurer to improving the financial wellness of all residents and attempted to achieve that goal, in part, with a financial literacy art contest that just had its 10th awards ceremony recently. Please visit www.oakgov.com/treasurer/artgallery to see how our own Oakland County high school students have used the power of the arts to teach lessons of money management to all of us, and at the same time received $100,000 in scholarships thanks to Flagstar Bank and the help of OLHSA and Oakland Schools.
The people I’ve had the pleasure of working with over these 12 years are a major highlight, especially the dedicated, earnest and professional staff of the Treasurer’s Office. There are too many to name, but I want to give particular thanks to Jody Weissler Defoe, Natalie Neph, Ross Gavin, Jill Robinson, Laura Schmitt, Reda Nafso and Jim Van Leuven for their tireless commitment to our mission.
Working with Brooks Patterson was also a highlight. While we disagreed on a few things that seemed to get more attention than the majority of things we did agree on, I admired Brooks Patterson and genuinely appreciate his contribution to Oakland County. The same is true of my friend, Executive Dave Coulter, and of my predecessor, Pat Dohany, a gentleman of true class who brought me onto the staff to show me the ropes – even though we were of different political parties and even though we ran against each other in the election. Mr. Dohany put County and service ahead of party. His contribution, and that of his long-serving father Hugh Dohany, should be honored. I had the pleasure of paying Pat Dohany’s kindness forward in hiring Treasurer-Elect Robert Wittenberg in January to help him prepare for his term. I’ve known and respected Robert for many years, and his dad was my little league baseball coach. Like the Dohanys, the Wittenbergs are committed to public service as shown by Robert’s service in the Legislature and his brother Jamie’s service as a most honorable and fair District Court Judge.
As I complete my term of office on June 30, 2021, I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve the voters of Oakland County and offer some parting thoughts:
Attitude matters: At its best, humble, authentic public service restores faith in government, and helps taxpayers get their money’s worth.
Innovate always: Don’t limit yourself to things as they are, instead brainstorm and be creative in finding new paradigms for solving problems.
Help people: It’s all about helping people, and as treasurer you get the chance to help people in very meaningful way.
On a personal note, my family and I are very excited for me to be starting a new professional chapter, details of which I will share in the coming months. I’ve never believed that true leadership is about titles; but instead, it’s about doing the right thing and serving your community. No matter what title I may wear now or in the future, Oakland County, I remain committed to you and our collective success and will always be just a phone call away at 248-421-ANDY. Thank you for the honor of serving you.
Andy Meisner is a former member of the Michigan State House of Representatives. He was elected Oakland County Treasurer in 2008.