The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020








Olivia Zink. Courtesy photo.

Five favorites
Favorite Book: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Favorite Movie: The Butler
Favorite Musician: The Beatles
Favorite Food: Anything sweet
Favorite Thing About NH: Kayaking in our lakes.

Rebel leader
Activist group leader wants to catalyze volunteer energy

By Ryan Lessard


Olivia Zink of Franklin is the new executive director of Open Democracy and New Hampshire Rebellion. She’s a mom, longtime activist and city councilor in Franklin. Zink spoke to the Hippo on April 14.

Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I first got involved with grassroots politics about 16 years ago, or a little bit more. I was very active with an organization called Save Our Groundwater on the Seacoast, and I fought for water rights for many years so people could have access to clean and safe drinking water. … After I got my master’s degree in community economic development, I began working for social economic justice. I worked on a variety of campaigns, Priorities New Hampshire, I worked for New Hampshire Citizens Alliance for five years and I was the program director for Open Democracy and I had worked with the American Friends Service Committee before taking this new role as the executive director. I am also a city councilor in Franklin as well. 
What first inspired you to fight for the cause of getting big money out of politics?
I think this is the issue that’s so important to all the other issues. Ensuring that our democracy is open and trusted and accountable, you really need to make sure that democracy, that fundamental rights, that people’s voices are more important than those voices that are making campaign contributions and anyone who lobbies. We really need to make sure that our government is working for people more than working for the profit of [corporations]. … I don’t know that I had an “Aha!” moment but I did have the honor to meet Granny D and, following in her footsteps, I think there’s been moments throughout my career where I really felt that this is the most fundamental and critical movement in our time and our history right now. If we want to pass environmental change, if we want to do what’s right for health care reform, do what’s right for economic justice, we really have to address the transparency and accountability [needed for] getting big money out of politics.
In what ways do you plan on continuing that mission through Open Democracy and New Hampshire Rebellion?
Open Democracy and New Hampshire Rebellion will continue to walk the talk. We’ve had many walks before and so we’ll plan additional walks and hopefully people will be able to walk with us this summer. We will work on the state level and at the federal level…. [to] expose secret donors and require full transparency, … ban bribes from lobbyists and government contractors, … ban super PACs and overturn Citizens United, … establish small-donor citizens budget elections, … end gerrymandering and modernize voter registration and … close loopholes and enhance campaign finance laws. We encourage people to go to [], sign the pledge, encourage people running for office to take the pledge, saying that these reforms are important to them. … We’ve really hit a pivotal moment. A year and half ago, 96 percent of the population said we need to address money in politics but only 9 percent of them thought that there was something we could do to really get meaningful change. … [Now] the same amount of people want change and now we’re up to like 35 to 40 percent of people who believe change is possible. … Every day this week, 400 or more people have been arrested on the Capitol steps fighting for that core democracy, fighting for getting big money out of politics. ... I’m on my way to Washington, D.C., to be part of the awakening, a march … to really pressure Congress to make changes on big money and politics. 
What are some new ideas you would bring to the table?
I guess a new idea is really a distributed organizing approach, where people can organize their own local events. How do we inspire and educate and mobilize and really encourage other people to organize in their [communities] and bring that energy to the movement? I really see myself as somebody who can help catalyze the volunteer energy that we have around this cause and translate that volunteer energy into political power.
What do you think is the biggest challenge you face in reaching your goals?
I think our biggest hurdle … is about the elites who have the power and don’t want the system changed. — Ryan Lessard 

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