MAC Mourns the Loss of Former Executive Director A. Barry McGuire
“Until We Meet Again, May God Hold You in the Palm of His Hand” –Irish Blessing
By Ben Bodkin and Mary Pettit
Barry McGuire, MAC Executive Director from 1969 -1984, passed away on April 14, 2012. Mr. McGuire lived to the fullest through his 78 years. He played baseball at Eastern Michigan University, where he earned a degree in 1958 after a stint in the army. After serving as MAC Executive Director, McGuire served in the same position for the Michigan Auto Dealers Association from 1984 – 2001, retiring at the end of 2001. He served on the Blue Cross Blue Shield Board of Directors, the Accident Fund Board of Directors, and was active on numerous state boards and commissions through appointments by Governors Romney, Milliken, Blanchard, and Granholm.
When he first became Executive Director of MAC, it was the Michigan State Association of Supervisors. Under his leadership, the legislature created the office of county commissioner, modernizing and updating the county board and the name of the organization was changed to Michigan Association of Counties. In addition, Barry created the structure of the modern, full-service association we know today, adding both the MAC Service Corporation and Workers Compensation Program during his tenure. But the measure of Barry McGuire is more than the sum of his accomplishments.
Current commissioners Jack LaBelle (R-Livingston County, President of MAC Workers Comp Board) and Bernie Lang (D-Menominee County) were commissioners during Mr. McGuire’s tenure as MAC Executive Director. Commissioner LaBelle, “Barry combined wit, charm, and a background in local government with a loyalty to the individual membership that translated into a 10-15 year period where MAC became a leader in fighting for county interests. MAC has come a long way as an organization and we owe much of that to the leadership of Barry.” Commissioner Lang spoke to McGuire’s personality, “I was at a dinner years ago and I hadn’t seen Barry in 10 years. I went up to him and said ‘Hi Barry, you probably don’t remember me, but I’m…’ and before I could get it out, Barry said, ‘Well Bernie Lang! It’s so nice to see you again’ and gave me a handshake and it was just really nice of him to remember me. It made me feel really good.”
Bob Fitzpatrick, former Chair of the Wayne County Commission and current MAC Service Corporation Board of Directors Member, said he spent every St. Patrick’s Day with McGuire in Detroit for 30 years and has known him for 40. Fitzpatrick said Barry was “like a brother, a terrific person and personality.” Fitzpatrick went on to say that he was the kind of person who would find you a job, lend you money, and give you the shirt off his back. “He helped hundreds of people get jobs, and he really took care of everyone.” Dick Hammel, former Genesee County Commissioner and MAC President in 1975-1976 said he learned from Barry that “to have good friends, you don’t need to sit on their doorstep. “ He indicated that while they didn’t see each other very often, when they got together about once a year their friendship hadn’t waned a bit. Barry had the ability to keep a friendship for decades and make it seem as if no time had passed.
A Barry McGuire visit was a common occurrence for MAC staff as well. He dropped in occasionally in the warm months to visit, reminisce, and offer good counsel. Mr. McGuire will be missed by those he touched at MAC, his friends and colleagues at the Capitol, the Commissioners and auto dealers he served, and by his family. His quick wit and broad grin will live on in memory, until we meet again, as the blessing goes.