(Adds context, background on Orr)
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK, April 10 Detroit's emergency manager
Kevyn Orr had political ambitions - once.
But just over a year after taking on what is now the biggest
municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, the experienced bankruptcy
attorney says any notions he had of running for public office
have been eradicated.
"This has erased any political aspirations, dead or barely
alive, that I ever had, and I was a political science major,"
Orr said. "This has done me in."
When Orr began his career in the 1980s as a trial attorney
in the rough-and-tumble world of Florida's Miami-Dade County, he
thought he might one day run for public office, he told Reuters
in an interview on Wednesday.
To be sure, Orr, 55, has not voiced interest in any
particular public office. But with a decade of federal
government service to his credit and now running a major
American city, he could be an appealing candidate for either
"You have to be willing to stand there and deal with some of
the irrational behavior, just slings and arrows for no reason,
and be willing to keep true north and keep doing it," he said,
fielding questions with an eye on two cellphones in front of him
- one for his wife, and one for everyone else.
Orr was appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in March
2013 to devise a rescue plan for the Motor City, which has
suffered a rapid outflow of population and has about $18 billion
of debt and liabilities. He filed Detroit's bankruptcy case in
As an African-American, a Democrat and the head of the
diversity task force at Jones Day, Orr filled some of the likely
prerequisites for an emergency manager imposed on a
predominantly black, heavily Democratic city by a white,
Though unelected, Orr holds enormous sway over the city's
future. His plan, which is still being negotiated with creditors
and must ultimately win a judge's approval, proposes significant
losses for creditors, ranging from pension funds to bondholders.
Orr told Reuters he was unlikely to take on other major
Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy cases in future.
"You probably won't see me in this kind of gig again," the
restructuring expert said. "I think I've had my fill."
He's fought tough battles before. He was counsel at the
Resolution Trust Corp, the federal agency set up to mop up the
savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and early '90s.
He was chief counsel to the RTC during the Whitewater
investigation, a high-profile probe into the collapse of a
thrift with connections to former President Bill Clinton and his
wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Later, as a private-practice attorney for the law firm Jones
Day, Orr represented automaker Chrysler during its
bankruptcy, which he described as "politically explosive."
But the Detroit case has also focused him on what he feels
are his true talents.
"I really enjoy the financial aspects and restructuring and
strategy," he said.
Still, his time in Detroit is beginning to run out, with
less than six months left in his current job. After that he has
just one plan: A "long vacation on a warm island" with his wife.
(Reporting by Hilary Russ; Editing by Dan Burns and Jonathan