That’s why the former state representative and current government relations director for Hope Network announced his candidacy for the 30th district state Senate seat on Monday at several sites across Ottawa County, including the Coffee Grounds cafe in downtown Grand Haven.
Haveman is running for the seat currently held by Arlan Meekhof, who serves as Senate majority leader. Meekhof, R-West Olive, cannot run again due to term limits.
The Holland Republican is the first to file as a candidate for the seat, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The primary election is August 2018.
“I wanted to be the first one out there, to remove any speculation, to set down the gauntlet,” Haveman said. “We wanted to make it very official. We have been quietly telling people for months. Now’s the time to make it official. We’re in.”
Since he left the state House, where he served for eight years, Haveman has been working for Hope Network, a Christian organization that helps people with disabilities live independently. It was there that he learned more about the Medicaid system, he said, which is something he hopes to streamline.
“If there is a way to streamline those things in order to get our tax dollars down to the local client, the person who actually deserves and needs the money, we’re saving the taxpayer money as well as doing the service better,” he said.
Haveman spent 20 minutes talking to friends and supporters at Coffee Grounds on Monday morning. He made subsequent stops at Primera Plastics in Zeeland and at the Georgetown Township Hall in Jenison.
He said another of his main focuses would be workforce development, which stems from his work on prison reform when he was a state lawmaker and tried to reform the Michigan penal system. As a representative, he proposed legislation to change the philosophy behind how the state punishes criminals, sending more to jail for violating probation instead of prison, and allowing some to be paroled after serving their minimum sentence.
Haveman said Gov. Rick Snyder has done “a great job” in focusing on workforce development. There needs to be more of it in schools to ensure students coming out of high school or higher education have the skills to perform needed labor.
“If we don’t have a good, talented workforce and we don’t have enough people, our economic development is going to suffer and our communities are going to suffer because you’re going to have more people unemployed, living off public dollars or finding some other way to survive, but they’re not going to be producing,” he said.
Government can help ensure this by “getting out of the way,” Haveman added.
As a self-defined “pragmatic libertarian,” Haveman said he wants to get the government “off people’s backs.” But his ideals don’t stop him from working across the aisle, he said.
“I had a really great experience in Lansing for six years, and I met people who were totally different from me — from different parties, cultures, races,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I gave up on my values. I would work with anyone in this community or Lansing to achieve those goals.”
– The Holland Sentinel contributed to this report