Fight for Patterson's seat heats up as Oakland County board interviews finalists

And then there were five. 

The Oakland County Board of Commissioners had widdled down a list of five names from a batch of 21 applicants pining for the executive position.

The most qualified candidates made their pitch for why they should be the county's most powerful official. Some names might sound more familiar than others.

"I think the critical role of the interim person is really to engage all of the stakeholders and keep things moving forward," said Kevin Howley. 

Howley has been in a similar position before. He ran against L. Brooks Patterson in past races for the seat - coming up short against the incumbent in 2012.

Another familiar individual would be Dave Woodward, a Democrat who resigned from the board of commissioners last week with the intention of running for the executive position, due to a law stating the board can't appoint one of its own.

"I served three terms in the state house, specializing in a number of state policy issues including energy and technology, health care, veterans affairs," he said.

Others who spoke included Randy Hazel, who said "he's just tried to make a difference" while Timothy Gossman cited his "ability to bring people together" as what is needed for the position.

The fifth applicant was Julie Secotine, a former Patterson appointee who referenced her experience around the county's departments.

Patterson died earlier this month from pancreatic cancer. The staunch Republican had held the seat for 27 years. Since his death, who would hold the seat has been a story resting in limbo and drenched in controversy. 

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Officials have called for a public vote after reports of 'back room deals' being conducted in order to line up Woodward for holding the seat. The GOP chair of Oakland County called for an investigation into the election after what he perceived as a lack of transparency.

And Wednesday's interviews were no different. Before they began, one of the commissioners on the board interviewing candidates recused himself after claiming the committee was biased because of too much Democratic representation.

"The committee is biased to one side and I think for this procedure to work, it should be at least equal," said Commissioners Tom Middleton. "And for that reason, I'm not going to participate in today's interviews."

By law, the board must appoint an executive within 30 days of its vacancy. It could make a decision as early as Thursday.