AS CITIZENS, we constantly talk about the problems with “professional politicians” and say we would prefer people who have worked in the real world to run for office. We want someone who has run a business and understands the impacts (both positive and negative) that government can have on our economy. We want someone who has served in our communities and knows how to help those who need our assistance. We want someone who has been a leader, but also has been devoted to family. And we always ponder why more people like that don’t run for office.
Well, the citizens of New Hampshire now have the opportunity to elect someone like that. Walt Havenstein has never run for elected office before, but as a successful businessman, a devoted husband, father and grandfather, a person who has dedicated substantial time to serving in the non-profit world, and as someone who has served all of us as a Marine, he embodies what we all wish for in a candidate.
More importantly, Walt has been a leader his entire life, and that is one thing our state needs more than ever.
He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served our country for 28 years as a Marine. He was vice chairman of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation and he and his wife Judy have been leaders in the fight against juvenile diabetes for more than 20 years. Walt has also served with Dean Kamen as chairman of U.S. FIRST, an organization which has helped tens of thousands of high school students around the country become inspired by math, science and engineering.
Walt has also been a leader in business. He worked for ITT and Raytheon before joining Sanders Associates in Nashua in 1999 as president. He led the company through the acquisition of Sanders by BAE Systems and oversaw several operating groups of the company as executive vice president of BAE Systems North America. Several years later he became president and CEO of BAE Systems Inc., overseeing 50,000 employees and running a company with $20 billion in sales and a budget three times the size of New Hampshire’s annual budget. Clearly, this is someone who understands the economy, how to grow a business, manage a large organization, and get things done.
After BAE, Walt went to work as CEO of SAIC, a consulting and contracting company. Within a few months of starting there, he was confronted with a growing scandal. A long-running contract with the City of New York, known as CityTime, was rife with kickbacks, bribes, money laundering and fraud. Instead of circling the wagons, pointing fingers at others, and hiding the truth, Walt went to work to solve the problem. He took hold of the situation, fired the people involved, and put in place policies to fix the situation. That is what good leaders do.
Now, Walt is running for governor of New Hampshire, and the contrast between Gov. Maggie Hassan and Walt couldn’t be starker. Gov. Hassan is a professional politician, having run for one office or another for the past 15 years. She has shown a lack of leadership skills in addressing our state budget, economic stagnation, and the Medicaid enhancement tax crisis.
Walt Havenstein is not a professional politician. He is going to take action like a leader even when acting like a politician is the safer course of action. That is just the way Walt does things.
We all talk about wanting fewer politicians and more leaders. We talk about wanting someone who has lived and breathed the private sector and not someone who just likes to talk about it. We want someone who has actually supported our communities and not just cut ribbons and appeared in photo opportunities.
The Democrats have already shown their hand in trying to tear down a good man who is willing to serve New Hampshire as he has served every other organization he has worked for: with dedication, honesty and hard work. Walt Havenstein is the leader we all wish would run. Now it’s our turn to vote for him.
Tom Eaton of Keene is a former state Senate president.