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Friday, February 8, 2013

Michael McCready: 2012 Person of the Year. Part 1.

There has always been talk that senior City Commissioners like Mayor Zambricki or Pat Hardy might someday retire. Zambricki, a six time Mayor has served every year since being first elected in 1989. Almost a quarter of a century ago.

City Commissioner Pat Hardy has served on City Commission every year since 2003.  In 2007 she served as Mayor  and presided over the City's 75th anniversary celebration.  A departure of either would be not be unexpected.

The  departure of City Commissioner Michael McCready, when the possibility was announced last April  was however a shock. He was the youngest member of  the commission, the baby. How young was  McCready  ? Young enough to put his graduation dates in his City Hall Bio. Ernest W. Seaholm High School Class of  1978. and  Western Michigan University  Class of 1983. The latter in a City  where many have prestigious or multiple  degrees, seemed pedestrian. Why was  it  that it took him five years to get through
 school ?  McCready was a public school man in private school town. There are no public schools in the City of  Bloomfield Hills.

McCready with the exception of two years as a child spent in  Baton Rouge Louisiana, a was life long resident of Oakland County. He grew up in what is called Bloomfield Village which is actually in Bloomfield Township and attended Birmingham Schools. Later he would start his own business  and open an office in Birmingham. His wife however grew up in the City, In Rudgate, on Marblehead to be exact. That detail like many in McCready's life would only come  out in a conversation concerning the matter at hand.  It was at a City Commission meeting  in January of last year and the topic being discussed was mailboxes on Rudgate road. Commissioner McCready said he knew the area well and explained why. Rarely would he otherwise talk about himself. Invariably he was more interested in what others had to say. A trait that serves him well.

In the mid nineteen nineties, in an event that coincided with the birth of his first child, McCready and family moved to the City of Bloomfield Hills. As far back as  published city records concerning City elections go (2003) , McCready was running for the only elected office the City offers that of  City Commissioner. For four  straight years  he lost.Twice he finished dead last (2003 and 2006). Once he lost by one vote (2005) 
While losing commission races he  served on the City's other Board's and Commissions. and became Chairman of the Cit's Zoning Board of Appeals. In 2007 his ship came in and he was elected to City Commission.

In 2009 when he ran for re-election  McCready was the top vote getter in a four candidate raise and his vote total of 792 votes is highest of any candidate of the modern era. In 2011 when he again sought re-election  to commission, he finished first in a four person race,

In between was the year 2010, the year McCready by a rotational system became Mayor.It was a  process by which a  the position of Mayor by pre-arranged vote would go to the most Senior of the Commission who had either not been Mayor or served as Mayor in the most distant past. In 2010  Commissioner Hardy had been Mayor in 2007-08 and Commiseration Zambricki in 2008-9. Commissioners Toohey and McClure were newly elected and not yet eligible.

That made McCready Mayor and no one in the City knew what to expect. McCready then in his late forties was considered by many to be the junior member of the The Mike and Mikes.(Mike Zambricki and Mike McCready)

 Unbeknownst to residents McCready wasted no time in taking charge. The City's check signing procedure was to call nearby residents, former Mayor Kellet, Former Mayor Dawkins. or Former Mayor Hardy in to sign checks was  stopped. As a business owner McCready wanted to be aware of all  checks going out. Signing priveillges we transferred to nearby resident and newly elected City Commissioner Sara McClure. The old guard didn't like it but McCready planned   to stay on top of things. Later in 2011-2012 as a commissioner again he would  study  the City's payables and ask at commission meetings why we were paying fees for late  payment  to American Express.

The drama at his first public meeting, May 11 2010  where a fire store was barely adverted is well documented . City Manager Jay Cravens had invited a public safety official from another community to discuss  the possibility of  out sourcing the the City's Dispatch Unit. Leaflets appeared all over town posted by  the City's Public Safety  department  urging residents to attend the meeting and save Dispatch, The residents were well prepared having a couple of months earlier stormed City Hall to oppose aspects of  the  Woodward (now the Plaza Shopping Center)  and the Demone  (now the Woodward)  projects. The residents who attended the Projects meeting did not (rightly or wrongly) believe  believe that then Mayor Kellet was listening to them  That spring they would elect opposition candidates Robert Toohey and Sarah McClure to City Commissioner  with votes totals a second only to McCready's record 2009 number.

That night the people believed they were listened to. They told Mayor McCready they that didn't want dispatch their link to public safety outsourced. McCready said that was fine but he wan't sure how they were going to be able  to pay for it. So he invited the standing room only and then some (speakers put in an overflow room didn't work) crowd  to attend a special meeting in two weeks. For that the City emptied out the fire station and put in folding chairs. At  final budget meeting that would preserve Dispatch, the City, in order to accommodate everyone rented a ballroom at  the Kingsley Inn.
The Public at those three meetings would exceed the total number of residents attending  City Commission meetings  during the next  two administrations or from May 2011 to present day.

Some might think it was the hot topic of Police and Fire Dispatch that brought the people out. Initially the may have been the case.

But the crowd kept coming and all of  Mayor McCready's meetings ran long..Often till after 11pm and  a through discussion of agenda items and public comment. were often the culprits. The last Town Hall Meeting  in  City History occurred  in October of 2010. City Commission sponsored it  so residents could  debate the pros and cons of  the pending library millage of of that year. Some came to debate the school  bond issue of that year and they were  accommodated as well. That pushed the regular City Commission meeting, also schedule for that night to an after midnight conclusion.
 The lateness of the hour annoyed some  who felt McCready either didn't know how to run a meeting or didn't  realize that many had  jobs and other obligations. It might have come as a surprise to critics to learn that  McCready also had a full time job. The Business he owned  required statewide and often over night travel. In his  years on  City Commission, 2007-2012, McCready  never missed a meeting until August 14th of 2012.
Photo of Andrew Jackson
If Andrew Jackson  aka "Old Hickory" was the first people's president, Michael McCready was a modern era people's mayor. The only discernible difference between the two was that the latter did not invite the public in on  Inaugural  Day  to trash his house as AJ did.

Others weren't so sure of McCready's place in  the City's History. His administration  which began with few knowing who he was, ended with many scratching their heads and wondering  what they has just witnessed. . Critics, pundits and wags would debate whether  McCready was good or just lucky.Many in a town where time in grade is king and academic snobbery is not unknown, decided he was lucky. After all nobody could be that good.

In the Spring of 2011 Downtown Publications came as close as any media in explaining the McCready phenomena  by writing  "At times it is hard to tell how McCready stands on a issue, as he smoothly, answers questions or fields topics without showing his hand. As Mayor he has shown great respect for resident opinion allowing them to express themselves at public hearing, listening attentively to their point of view and responding in kind."

In the Spring of 2012, McCready sprung his candidacy on  an unsuspecting world and again no one knew what to make of it .History indicated that McCready did not do well in elections where he was unknown.  The papers said  he was joining an already crowded  field of candidates. Some of whom were very well known and early favorites. The old guard would never support  McCready.What was McCready thinking or was he even thinking at all ?

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