Tuck alum Colin Van Ostern announces campaign for N.H. governor

by Amanda Zhou | 10/18/15 7:15pm

When Colin Van Ostern Tu’09 moved to New Hampshire in 2001 as a young man in his early 20s, he had never lived in a single place for more than four years. It was his 18th residence.

“[New Hampshire] was first place I set down roots. I found a community where people really care for each other. I really believe it’s the best place in the country to raise a family or start a business,” Van Ostern, who is running as a democratic candidate for governor of New Hampsire, said. He made the announcement two days after Governor Maggie Hassan (D) announced that she will run for the U.S. Senate next year.

Van Ostern moved to Hanover with his girlfriend, who was enrolled in the Tuck School of Business. For a year, he worked at Tuck in public relations before deciding to earn his own master of business administration degree at Tuck.

At Tuck, Van Ostern learned about different factors influencing the United States economy and the effect of climate change on business.

Tuck Professor Sydney Finkelstein, who taught Van Ostern in a first-year course, “The Analysis for General Managers,” said that Van Ostern carried himself in a professional way.

Finkelstein praised Van Ostern’s relatability, referring to him as a “guy next door” type.

In regards to Van Ostern’s political career, Finklestein said he was not surprised to hear he went into government.

“He’s always been interested in the public sector and [been] the type to give back. That was part of his portfolio of how he looked at the world,” he said.

Finklestein pointed out that Van Ostern stayed local despite having graduated from a top business school.

“He had the smarts to go to Wall Street, but I don’t think he ever spent much time thinking about it,” he said.

Tuck professor Bill Martin advised Van Ostern on his first-year project, which was an entrepreneurial group to provide feedback and opinions from consumers to companies.

“It’s funny, even back then he was looking at ways to make sure real people were actually heard,” Martin said.

Martin described Van Ostern as a “bright, energetic people person” and a “team builder with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

“He liked solving problems,” Martin said.

Van Ostern said he found a great community at Tuck and recalled breaking his ankle playing “Tripod Hockey,” a version of pond hockey for people who have never played before. After graduating, Van Ostern adopted the role of class secretary and still stays in touch with some of his professors.

After leaving Tuck, Van Ostern went on to work for Stonyfield, the world’s largest organic yogurt producer.

“That is a classic example of the type of company that would attract him, because of their high ethical values, sustainability and healthy food,” Finklestein said.

Later Van Ostern joined Southern New Hampshire University as the chief marketing officer.

“I think having a strong background in successful New Hampshire employers gives me perspective on how to build an even stronger economy,” Van Ostern said.

In 2011, he first ran for office — and was elected — as a member of the Executive Council of New Hampshire, which functions as a board of directors for the state’s executive branch. Many members of the executive council work in business as well, he said.

“I ran really because I was worried that politics or special interests were overriding what was really best for the people of New Hampshire,” he said.

Previously, Van Ostern opposed the executive council’s decision to cut off funding for birth control and cancer screening from Planned Parenthood, and led the movement to restore funding. He went on to campaign on the importance of extending the commuter rail from Boston to New Hampshire to help boost business growth and the economic development.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we keep the state moving forward and doing it in a way that works for the people of New Hampshire — that’s not always been the case,” Van Ostern said.

Van Ostern also cited special interests lobbying against renewable energy as examples of the government not acting in the peoples’ best interests.

One of Van Ostern’s concerns is encouraging young people, families and businesses to come and stay in New Hampshire.

“We have the best quality of life in the country, safest neighborhoods [and] good schools. [Yet] our high school and college students tend to leave as soon as they graduate almost faster than any other state,” he said.

Van Ostern said rallying strong support from state voters will be a key factor during his campaign this year, in order to face challenges from opposition groups.

“I think it’s critical we build a real grassroots, people-powered campaign. That means building a strong network of supporters across the state where neighbors are talking to each other,” Van Ostern said.

The only other announced candidate for governor is Republican candidate Chris Sununu, son of former governor John Sununu.