By Tim Kiska
Another week. Another reminder that Wayne County government is a haunted house.
Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced another firing – that of an accountant who allegedly steered money to a company that didn’t deserve it.
But one addition to county government earlier this month – the appointment of Alfred Glancy III to head the Wayne County Airport Authority, could be a stroke of genius.
Glancy doesn’t need the job. And his pedigree, which stretches back to the glory days of General Motors, is exactly why he’ll bring some credibility to the county.
The Glancy name stretches back to 1920s-era GM. Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the business genius who turned the company into a colossus, personally chose Glancy’s grandfather to turn the flagging Oakland brand around. He did it well. The brand became Pontiac. The elder Glancy became a brigadier general during World War II as he captained GM’s transformation from an automotive company into the defense juggernaut that beat Hitler
Glancy’s father was a two-fisted businessman, as well. Alfred Glancy Jr. once owned an 11 percent stake in the Empire State Building. He lived in one of the finest mansions on Grosse Pointe’s Lake Shore Drive. An invitation to Glancy’s annual Christmas party was a sign that you’d arrived. It’s Glancy’s old train set that now sits in the Detroit Historical Museum. It was Glancy who bankrolled “Miss Lonelyhearts,” a Broadway play based on the classic novel by Nathaniel West.
Which brings us to Al Glancy III, Princeton graduate, class of 1960. His marriage announcement to his wife, Ruth, made the society pages of the New York Times–Ruth being a noted debutante of the 1959-1960 season. Glancy later served as chairman of Michigan Consolidated Gas Company. Just to burnish his street cred, Glancy became a board member of most of this town’s significant non-profit institutions, including the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Institute of Arts.
When Ficano was serving as a Deputy Wayne County Clerk in the 1970s under the late Jim Killeen, an old-style Irish ward heeler, Glancy was already a prince of the city.
Glancy can play in anybody’s poker game. And he brings his own chips. He won’t be bullied or intimidated by anyone. And he’s not about to besmirch the family’s good name with any stupid, ill-advised, possibly-shady business deals—which seem to be a specialty of the county.
As the sewers back up in the county building, Glancy may be the man who can provide a lifeline.
There’s no real reason that Glancy took Ficano’s invitation—other than an admirable sense of noblesse oblige. Goodness know that’s lacking around the country these days.