Oakland County Treasurer/Democrats

July 13, 2020

ROBERT CORBETT
 

 
Corbett lives in Madison Heights and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Detroit. He has been a member of the Madison Heights City Council and has been involved in professional and community groups.  


ROLE OF TREASURER  

What is the primary role of the Oakland County Treasurer's Office? What prior experience and skills do you bring to the job to fill the role of treasurer?


The treasurer’s role includes serving as custodian of the county funds and advisor to both the county executive and county commission on financial and income projections for budget preparation and expenditure. As part of the custodial function, a number of other legal processes are performed by the treasurer, including disposal/sale of forfeited properties and redemption of debts owed to local municipalities as dictated by state law. Under that category might be replacement of delinquent water and tax bills owed by private entities to cities and townships. As a 20-year veteran of the Madison Heights City Council, I’ve helped guide our community through multiple economic downturns by prudent budgeting and insisting on greater efficiencies in spending. We actually emerged from the 2008 recession with higher credit ratings higher than neighboring communities and higher than we had prior to the downturn.

INVESTMENT OUTLOOK FOR COUNTY

In revenue terms, what do you see as the impact on county investments and investments for local communities that the county helps manage given the turmoil expected in the current economy? Over the past three years, how has the county investment portfolio performed? Provide specifics.


Over the past decade, including more recent periods, a generally conservative portfolio such as is in place has served the county well. Currently the county pursues a largely cash or near-cash position on the majority of its holdings, which I think serves the taxpayers well. As I’ve learned serving on the city council of a community which is frequently lauded for professionalism and exemplary results in governmental finance, continued adherence to best practices and retention of highly regarded bond and finance advisors is key. I think that will be especially important over the next 18 to 24 months as the economy and, most notably, finance markets recover from the current crisis. I would place an emphasis on investment policies that encourage custodial financial institutions to invest and support banks and financial institutions that invest and support Oakland County.

OFFICE STAFFING PLANS

A large part of the success of the Oakland County Treasurer's office has been that over the terms of the last three treasurers they were able to assemble a strong and experienced staff. Have you already started to assemble a staff and will some of your organization plans include key staff members already working for the county?


This is actually a more complicated question than it may first appear because the next treasurer of Oakland County may not know until after November when she or he will be taking office. I agree with the observation that for many years, the treasurer’s office has been staffed with an extraordinary collection of public servants. Good sense and my past practices suggest that I would look to retain many of the current staff. However, if the treasurer-elect ends up taking office immediately, then the first consideration will be ascertaining which members of staff would follow Andy Meisner, should he be elected and leave for the county executive office. I have considerable experience in more than 20 years of governmental service of dealing with unexpected turnover of key personnel in multiple departments. If, on the other hand, someone other than treasurer Meisner becomes county executive, then I would have until July 1, 2021 – the end of the treasurer’s normal term of office – to evaluate staff and make personnel choices. Again I would look to leverage experienced staff in a way that makes sense and benefits the public.

COUNTY BOND RATING

Oakland County has for years maintained a AAA bond rating. What efforts can, and will, the treasurer's office make to ensure that Oakland County maintains this high rating?


Maintaining a high credit rating is the result of prudent financial policy meeting quality investment strategies. Approving the county budget and establishing spending priorities that reflect the best interests of Oakland County are the responsibilities of the executive and county commission. Promoting transparent and sensible investment practices is the obligation of the treasurer. The treasurer must also be prepared to offer honest and unbiased advice in the formation of spending priorities so that the attractiveness of Oakland County as a place to live, work, and invest is enhanced.

TAX DELINQUENCIES

Given the current economic challenges faced by many county residents, do you envision an increase in tax delinquencies similar in nature but not necessarily in scale as experienced during the recent Great Recession? What can the office of county treasurer do to assist county residents in terms of an economic downturn that is expected?


Unique among all the candidates for treasurer is my direct, hands-on experience with the treasurer’s office over the course of four decades. I know what it was like back the 2009-2013 period, when government offices at all levels were overwhelmed by the foreclosure crisis. The treasurer’s office back then was deluged by lenders and homeowners, desperately working to clear the backlog. In my professional judgement there will be, as a result of the current economic crisis, a sharp increase in defaults and properties eventually subject to foreclosure. However, unlike during recent market declines, mortgage liquidity appears adequate to cushion most segments of the market from collapse. The treasurer’s office should continue to expand and broaden its mortgage counseling programs with cities and townships throughout Oakland County.

KEY ISSUES

What do you believe are the key issues facing Oakland County at this time? Why? How would you work to resolve the issues?


I believe the treasurer’s office will be directly in the center of the most pressing priorities facing our county in the years to come. Quality investments in emerging sectors of the county must be supported by state-of-the-art strategies for conservative investment of the county’s assets. Oakland County should use its financial muscle to assist local communities in pursuing their infrastructure investment projects.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

How do your skills sets prepare you to represent the county better than your opponent?


Twenty-one years member of Madison Heights City Council; five years serving as mayor pro tem; 34-year member Madison Heights Zoning Board of Appeals, two years as chairman; and 34 years service on the zoning board of appeals. I believe I was an influential voice in my community, guiding Madison Heights through the Great Recession from 2008 through 2013. Like many local communities, Madison Heights and its residents were economically devastated by the financial collapse. We did, however, as a community emerge strong and viable with a credit rating slightly higher than before the recession. I’m confident that my experience, unique among the candidates currently vying for treasurer, will be needed in the months and years to come.

ROBERT WITTENBERG


Wittenberg resides in Huntington Woods and holds a bachelors degree in business management. He is currently a State Representative, first elected in 2015.

ROLE OF TREASURER

The county treasurer is the banker for the county government, manager of county debt and steward of taxpayer dollars. The treasurer's office and staff, under the leadership of the county treasurer, have many roles within the county government, including the management of the property tax foreclosure process. As a third-term State Representative for southern Oakland County, I've demonstrated trustworthy leadership in the execution of my duties. In my previous career as a life and health insurance specialist, I garnered firsthand experience navigating the challenges of operating a small business. Additionally, I currently serve as treasurer of the community coalition for the Berkley and Oak Park school districts. I believe an effective public servant should be both fiscally responsible and socially conscious. As treasurer, I will be a compassionate steward of resources for all residents across Oakland County.

INVESTMENT OUTLOOK FOR COUNTY

The county treasurer invests funds of the Oakland County Local Government Investment Pool using a conservative investing strategy outlined in state statute and the Oakland County investment policy. Through careful analysis of every investment decision, I commit to never losing a penny of invested funds under my fiduciary responsibility. Each month, the county treasurer's office generates transparent, publicly accessible reports spelling out their performance. Because the investment pool is well diversified with laddered maturities, the county's investments have been performing strongly in recent years, millions of dollars in interest being generated each month for our local communities and outperforming the benchmark. Simply put, our taxpayer dollars have been put to work to maximize return for the further benefit of the taxpayers, while still following the requirements of safety first in every investment decision, then looking to liquidity needs, then finally to yield. Markets presently continue to show resilience in the face of recent economic turmoil, and as treasurer I will be vigilant to ensure that we follow the Oakland County Investment Policy and swiftly adapt to any changes or turmoil the economy presents.

OFFICE STAFFING PLANS

I have a great deal of respect for the professionalism of the experienced staff in the Oakland County Treasurer's office. My organizational approach to managing the office includes incorporating as many staff members already working for the county as possible. It would be presumptuous of me to assemble a staff this far ahead of the elections, and I will wait until a more prudent juncture to set more concrete decisions in regard to staff. However, I can promise that if elected, I will ensure our office reflects the diversity of the residents of our county when staffing decisions are made.

COUNTY BOND RATING

Maintaining the AAA bond rating is one of my top priorities. Our strong rating helps save taxpayer money by reducing the county's borrowing rates when bonds are sold to fund capital projects within Oakland County. It has been and can continue to be put to work, benefiting our local units of government when partnering with the county. A critical effort by the county treasurer in maintaining the AAA bond rating is ensuring the county continues multi-year balanced budgets, strong tax collection and a diversified local economy. As county treasurer, I will be a strong leader on advocating for balanced, long-term budgeting and forecasting.

TAX DELINQUENCIES

It is very likely that we will see an increase in tax delinquencies, but I don’t think it will be to the level of the Great Recession. For most people, their home is the largest investment they will make in their lifetime. I will ensure that people are able to stay and thrive in our neighborhoods. I will actively engage with all taxpayers facing financial challenges to help address their needs and set them up with resources while developing collaborative plans to help prevent foreclosure. I will also leverage relationships in the private sector to implement public-private partnerships to create small business and homeowner relief funds to address the lasting impact of COVID-19. Currently, I am working with treasurer Meisner to draft legislation giving county treasurers more flexibility to help struggling homeowners stay in their homes. Either way, I am eager to proactively tackle the problem before it becomes an even larger issue for our residents.

KEY ISSUES

I believe my top priorities as treasurer will address the key issues facing Oakland County. My priorities include the financial security and well-being of every resident, helping to recruit new businesses while supporting existing ones, and maintaining our AAA bond rating. I will be an innovative and proactive leader on these issues. My plan as Oakland County Treasurer is to continue the proven, trustworthy leadership I've delivered as a state representative. For example, I developed innovative programs that can increase access to capital for small businesses in Oakland County – ultimately giving them a better chance to succeed.  The financial security of many residents and businesses will be challenged by the lasting effects of COVID-19. That is why my plan to implement public-private partnerships to create small business and homeowner relief funds, will go a long way in helping people who are facing hardships. I intend to responsibly and thoughtfully make our taxpayer dollars work the absolute best for our residents.

WHY VOTE FOR YOU

My proven track record as an elected state Representative, along with my experience as a licensed life and health agent and as treasurer for our multi-community coalition, positions me best to serve as the next county treasurer. I love helping people, and that is why I am in public service. I believe our treasurer should be accessible, reliable, and trustworthy. These are all traits that I have exhibited as a state Representative. I have been on this campaign trail since September, and I am proud to have the endorsement of the current treasurer, Andy Meisner, all the Oakland County Democratic state legislators, and numerous county commissioners, mayors, and city council members. Being raised in Oakland County helped shape me into the person I am today. And as a current homeowner, husband, and father of young children in Oakland County, I'm committed to strengthening the quality of life for all residents throughout the county.

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