GV alumnus gets political

Courtesy Photo / Peter Vankiken
peter Vankiken

Courtesy Photo / Peter Vankiken peter Vankiken

Samantha Butcher

Politics are a passion for many, but recent Grand Valley State University graduate Peter Vankuiken has turned his passion into a career.

VanKuiken, who graduated from GVSU earlier this year, worked as state representative-elect Brandon Dillon’s campaign manager throughout the 2010 election and was recently hired on as Dillon’s legislative assistant.

“I had worked super hard at GVSU and for my internships just to have a job on a campaign this year, but to be Brandon’s campaign manager and to see the whole thing through from beginning to end – now that was cool,” VanKuiken said. “Maybe things would have been different if we had lost, but to know all the work paid off in the end – it was just gratifying.”

Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) ran in the 75th Michigan House District, which covers the eastern half of Grand Rapids. Dillon won the seat previously held by Democrat Robert Dean in a narrow race.

According to the Grand Rapids Elections Examiner, there was a 666-vote margin between Dillon and his Republican challenger, Bing Goei.

“There was some anxiety, some joy and some relief (on election night),” VanKuiken said. “I really cannot describe it accurately. It was surreal to be sitting there watching the numbers come in and to be thinking about all the things that lead up to that moment. When the moment came and we knew we had won, it felt pretty darn good.”

VanKuiken’s interest in politics stems from his childhood love of history.

“When I was growing up, my dad would take me to historical locations or what he thought would be historical events,” he said. “There were lots of trips to Washington, D.C,. and every effort was made to see the President when he came to town.”

His passion continued through his time at GVSU. In addition to taking political science classes, VanKuiken interned with the Kent County Democratic Party and spent more than a year interning with David LaGrand, the Democratic candidate for State Senate in the 29th District. He first learned of the Dillon job through a friend.

“At first I wasn’t too sure about it because I was busy with school and working on another campaign, but after thinking about it, I realized, why not?”

Dillon stood out to him immediately.

“I had met a few politicians by that point, and Brandon was his own man,” VanKuiken said.

During the campaign, VanKuiken worked 12- to 18-hour days for seven days a week.

VanKuiken said he is willing to speak with other students who are interested in how to get involved with politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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