From Cars to City Hall: Bret Scott's Road to Leadership

By Christian Robinson

Meet Bret Scott, the dynamic Mayor of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan, whose love for automobiles fuels his passion for public service. With a background steeped in automotive engineering and a collection of classic cars that rivals his civic achievements, Scott brings a unique blend of expertise and enthusiasm to his role.

Hailing from Pontiac, Michigan, Scott's affinity for automobiles was nurtured within his family and blossomed into a successful career in the automotive industry. During his two decades at General Motors, he honed his skills in electrical engineering while fostering a deep appreciation for automotive craftsmanship. His collection, including prized gems like a rare 1959 DeSoto, reflects his dedication to preserving automotive history.

Embracing his role as a community leader, he embarked on a journey to blend his automotive passions with public service. From securing a seat on the city commission to assuming the mayoral mantle in 2021, Scott's leadership revolves around his commitment to driving progress while honoring the city's heritage.

Amidst his mayoral responsibilities and caring for his impressive car collection, Scott remains open to the possibility of expanding his public service beyond Pleasant Ridge. Whether advocating for automotive education or championing local initiatives, his passion for cars and community shines through, paving the way for a brighter future for him and his beloved city.

Driving Force recently had a chance to catch up with Mayor Scott to discuss his career.

Christian Robinson: You are the mayor of Pleasant Ridge, Michigan. What triggered you to get involved in public service?

Bret Scott: There were just little things around town that needed to be tuned up. And I'm the sort of person who likes to get in there and fix those little things so people don't have to think about what's happening in their city government. I try to go for the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of the people shouldn't have to think about how the city is run. It just runs. And then there are lots of people that are really engaged. It's great when people get engaged and help us get our jobs done.

Christian Robinson: Do you see yourself seeking office beyond mayor?

Bret Scott: It's entirely possible. I'm kind of an introvert. It isn't like me to be out in the public a lot. I'm more of a Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones kind of guy behind the scenes. But I could see myself being one of those level-headed people getting things done for the community. And that may mean going further.

Christian Robinson: You have a background as an electrical engineer. Tell me about your career before you got into politics.

Bret Scott: My dad was an auto mechanic. His dad was an auto mechanic. Both had their own shops. So, it was kind of natural for me to fall into the industry. My mom actually left nursing and started working for General Motors. I started as a high school co-op student at GM and worked there for about 20 years. I got my electrical engineering degree through GM and my MBA. So, I'm sort of a double agent. I can bean count and actually grow beans. I was never one to hold a pen or pencil. I had to get under the hood and see how things work. And even today, it's actually fun for me to buy a car's service manual to see how it works.

Christian Robinson: Some of those service manuals can be pretty expensive.

Bret Scott: They are. I'll buy foreign cars and then have to learn a little bit about the language to find the manual and do the translation. So, it's a challenge, and it can be expensive. I bought my mom a 2013 Chevrolet Volt, and the manual is 8,000 pages. It's no wonder that these are just going to be hard to service because who's going to find the right page to flip to keep it running? That's part of the challenge of owning a car like that, but it's fun.

Christian Robinson: What did you do for GM when you worked there?

Bret Scott: Electrical engineering and audio systems. At the time, I had a golden ear, and I could tune car stereo systems for GM. Then, I was one of their radio geeks. I helped design new radio systems and speakers and worked with the folks here and in Germany on cars where they were shared systems between GM and Opel. I also generally worked on electrical systems analysis, connected vehicles, and advanced electronics.

Christian Robinson: So, I have to ask, tell me about your car collection.

Bret Scott: I have very much a mutt collection of cars from places that I've worked before, and cars that were always interesting to me. My oldest is my 1959 DeSoto. I have a 1960 DeSoto, a 1964 Datsun unibody pickup, and a 1966 Lincoln. I have a 1968 El Dorado. I just sold my 64 Chrysler. I have a 1974 Country Squire wagon. I've got a 1976 Audi, a 1983 Ferrari, and a 1968 Caprice. The 83 Ferrari is phenomenal. It's a V12 coupe, the 400i, the best cross-country car I can imagine from that era. I just recently purchased a Porsche Taycan because I really wanted the EV experience, and I have a Cadillac ELR, which is a great hybrid experience.

Christian Robinson: What advice would you give to individuals looking to start a career in the automotive industry?

Bret Scott: There's never been a better time than now to consider the automotive field. Vehicles have become very complicated, but at the same time, two-thirds of cars sold every year are used cars, and cars are lasting longer because they're being designed better, but they're all going to need service. So don't be afraid to take that opportunity to learn a little something about cars. Tinker at home first. It's never been easier to find information. Some of it is not great, but that's part of the learning experience: finding the good and the bad information and becoming familiar with them. And even if you do not see yourself going to college, this is still a great time to get some vocational training and become really good with cars. They're not going away. You're going to see a lot of different kinds of vehicles being sold. Electric vehicles are here to stay, but they won't be the only vehicles that will be sold. In fact, the cars that are in the middle, the hybrids are the ones that are likely to become extremely popular, but they are also complicated. And people who know how they work will have very healthy financial existences. So, taking the opportunity to learn about cars, anything mechanical in general or hands-on, is going to be in demand.

Christian Robinson: You recently visited the SEMA Garage in Detroit. Tell me about the visit.

Bret Scott: That is an awesome Garage. I was surprised to see the amount of equipment there for people to do some of the things that make cars complicated. Managing those more complex systems and becoming certified around the complexity of cars is a great benefit. And it's awesome that it's right here in our backyard. I can't imagine a better place for a Garage like that than right around all the car companies so that the car companies can be comfortable with what's being done to their cars. That's always a big hurdle to overcome. Then, for technicians and aftermarket shops to come in and learn and build new products that work with these complex cars is a great thing.

Christian Robinson: You were out at the SEMA Show this past November. What were some of your favorite things you saw there?

Bret Scott: I think for me, just seeing how much was there. So much is online now that you don't actually see it in person. Being able to see the people behind the parts is one of the great things because you can have a conversation about something that somebody created and spark their curiosity and mine.

Christian Robinson: Any final thoughts for our readers?

Bret Scott: I would be remiss if I didn't encourage people to come to Michigan. Enjoy it. It's still Motown. We really enjoy our cars here, and we like them even when they don't run because we like fixing them up, making them pretty, and sounding good.