Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard believes he’s the best person to be Michigan’s next governor because of his previous experience as a state senator from 1990 to 1999, and his 11 years as sheriff.
“In 1991, when John Engler was in his first term, I was a leader in the senate when we did a lot of tough structural reforms,” said Bouchard, a Republican, who was floor leader when he left the senate. “We cut $1 billion out of the budget without raising taxes and reformed education so we could deliver more money into a lot of the districts that were really hurting.”
He feels that more than any other candidate, he understands what he’s getting into.
He also said he doesn’t have “become governor” on his “bucket list.” Rather, he loves his job, but as he looked at the field as it developed, he didn’t see any other candidate whom he believed had the experience to sit down the first day and to know what to do, how to do it, and would be willing to do it.
“Not to knock on the other candidates, it’s just different skill sets, different experiences,” he said, adding that having been a leader in the senate, he knows how to move things.
As governor, Bouchard would also help mend the political divisiveness that seems to be the norm these days, by building an environment where relationships across the aisle and between the executive and legislative branches can begin. He’d spend a great deal of time with legislators from both parties and both houses, and build a friendship first. Citing his own experiences in the senate, he said once such friendships are established, there may be disagreements over issues, but there isn’t name calling and metaphorical rock throwing, because the individuals involved know each other as people, first.
As sheriff, Bouchard oversees more than 1,200 employees.
“I understand what it is to be a CEO of government,” he said, adding that his department has a three-year rolling budget.
“We’re in balance three years from now, so I’ve been a fiscal steward that’s been effective in these tough times,” he said. “Oakland County is the only county in the state of Michigan that has AAA bond rating, that’s got a stable outlook. And I’m one-third of the county budget.”
He also said he’s owned and operated small businesses, and knows what it’s like to sign both the front and back of checks.
“That is the key to bringing Michigan and Detroit back — having businesses start up again,” Bouchard said. “Small businesses.”
He called the boarded up and papered over shop windows along Woodward “prime real estate” and said Detroit can once again be the vibrant town it was — if we make the tough decisions on both the state and local levels and if we allow businesses to grow, and create an environment where they can make money again.
“Making money and a profit is a good thing, because people can reinvest it and grow a business,” he said.
Bouchard’s top goal would be jobs. He’d have a “relentless focus” on that. He wants to stem the exodus of families and young people from the state. Moreover, doesn’t want his own children to feel they have no choice but to leave to find good jobs.
He said he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to change that, even if it means being a one-term governor.
He draws the line at raising taxes, however. He believes that’s not the answer and that raising taxes would only take more from people who have less. He said that rather than raise taxes, the best way to increase revenue is to bring more business to the state, and to generate more volume of business.
“A lot of businesses make their money based on volume, not based on price points (or) based on percentages,” he said. “So instead of making 5 percent, you make 2 percent, but you make it on a whole lot more people.”
He said if Michigan brings businesses back to the state, we’ll generate money, and — more importantly — jobs.
Another goal is to focus on the priorities and to then focus our resources on making the most of what he have. As an example, he said he wanted an aviation unit as sheriff, but rather than ask the taxpayers to pay for it, he “found” the money by competitively bidding the feeding of inmates at the county jail.
“I saved $1.6 million every year on food,” he said. “If the state did the same thing they would save, on the conservative side, $40 million every year.”
He said the state could also save money by renting closed rest stops to entrepreneurs — for, say, $100,000 per year. They’d re-open them as gas stations, restaurants or other such businesses, and those converted rest stops would go from liabilities on a balance sheet to assets.
He said it costs the state about $12 million per year to operate the C. 81 rest stops.
Bouchard chose Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land as his running mate several months ago. He said she helps him not only on the campaign trail, but also by the fact that she’s got experiencing in running a large department successfully.
“She’ll transition immediately from a campaign partner to a governing partner,” he said.