Royal Oak Tribune
Blue shift for commission
Bipartisan efforts expected to continue
Ajay Raman will take his 14th District county commission seat as a Democrat in January, and says he plans to listen and learn as much as he can in his new job.
He is one of two first-timers on a county commission that has, over the last decade, gradually shifted from strongly and traditionally Republican to a solid Democratic majority. Redistricting and the Nov. 8 election shifted what had been an 11-10 Democratic-Republican split to a 13-6 Democratic majority. The commission has a fairly long-standing tradition of bipartisanship, with few exceptions. That may not change in 2023.
“My first priority is to continue building bridges both within the community and also with other
elected officials,” said Dr. Raman, who owns a Novibased medical practice, Physician Anesthesiologists of the Motor City, and is a first-generation Indian-American.
During his campaign, he said he never asked a patient about their political party.
“There are a lot of positive things we can do together,” he said. “I’m just coming in to be openminded and willing to work with so many people.”
He said D.C.-style partisanship won’t work in Oakland County.
“To me, it’s about taking the best care of the community,” he said., adding that he’s excited about his new role. He’d run for Novi city council and for the mayoral seat without success, but found the newly created 14th District and campaigning with fellow Democrat Gwen Markham made the difference. He called Markam’s support instrumental to his campaign success.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support of family, neighbors and elected leaders as well as neighborhood organizations,” he said.
While campaigning he made public health and infrastructure key issues, he’s not planning on “coming in blazing with my personal agenda,” he said. “I just want to continue learning and being part of the community. I want to learn more about the wants and needs so I can best serve District 14.”
He’ll be formally sworn into office next week, with a ceremonial swearing in set for all commissioners during a January meeting.
Raman along with Rochester native Brendan Johnson, newly elected to District 4, are the two commission newcomers.
Johnson beat Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel for a seat that represents Rochester Hills and Auburn Hills. Raman, whose district includes Walled Lake and Wixom, and parts of Commerce Township and Novi, beat two-term Wixom City Councilman Robert Smiley.
The upcoming Democratic 13-6 majority is much different than the 2018 election results that continued a Republican majority.
Fellow Democrats reelected include Markham, of Novi; Dave Woodward, Royal Oak; Marcia Gershenson, Bloomfield Hills; Angela Powell, Pontiac; Kirsten Nelson, Waterford; William Miller, Farmington; Yolanda Smith, Southfield; Janet Jackson, Southfield; Penny Luebs, Clawson; Gary Gillivray, Madison Heights; and Charlie Cavell, Ferndale.
Republicans who retained their seats include Michael Spisz, Oxford; Michael Gingell, Lake Orion; Bob Hoffman, Highland; Karen Joliat, Waterford; Christine Long, Commerce; and Phil Weipert, South Lyon.
For a second term, women will also have a majority on the commission, a fact not lost on Woodward, the commission’s chairman. He said both he and Dave Coulter, county executive, are as committed to bipartisanship as the late L. Brooks Patterson, the county’s longtime Republican executive.
Gershenson said the board is a “pretty bipartisan group. We only differ on a couple issues, but we’ve got really great partners on the Republican side.”
Hoffman called the latest and most-significant majority shift from Republican to Democratic “awful” but said he’s willing to work across the aisle as appropriate. The commission has a record of bipartisanship in many, but not all, instances, he said.
“I’m sure I’ll like (the two new Democratic commissioners) but we don’t agree on everything,” he said.
Woodward said he is optimistic about the commission’s 2023 work.
“We had some of the strongest candidates fielded in every county commission district that I can remember,” he said, adding that he believes the Democrats’ new majority indicates voters “liked what we were doing and want us to do more.
“This new board, moving forward, will be arguably the most diverse board in the county’s history,” he said. “We have Indo-American, Jewish, Christian, men, women, black and white commissioners. It’s a much-more representative body for our county.”