She Conquered Politics. Next Up: Law
Maybe it was the Willamette sweatshirt her coach wore when he ran her middle school team through basketball drills. Or the afternoons she spent at the back of his courtroom, watching the Linn County Circuit Court judge dispense justice.
Either way, it was probably inevitable that first-year student Amanda Dalton would end up in law school, specifically at Willamette. After you’ve coordinated volunteers for a congressional campaign at 18 and run the Linn County Republican Party at 19, what else is there to conquer?
“It was always fun to watch her because she was always biting off a lot more than you’d think a kid like that could chew,” said Jim Egan BS’79. He coached Dalton’s basketball team, invited her to his courtroom to watch trials and became a friend of her family. She was 16 when he brought her to her first meeting of the Linn County Republican Central Committee. She ended up running the organization.
“She came in and showed absolutely no compunctions about her age and inexperience,” Egan said. “She simply is not afraid to grow and to change.”
Dalton and her sister, now a Eugene police officer, were raised in Albany by a single mother who went back to school to study nursing when Dalton was 16. She and her sister powered through hardscrabble childhoods to become homeowners by the time they each turned 21. “Both my sister and I are glad we had it rough,” Dalton said. “I live in a privileged community and I look around at all these young people, and I want to say, ‘you don’t even know you have these amazing opportunities!’”
Dalton’s interest in politics led her to become a legislative aide to Sen. Marylin Shannon, R-Brooks, after Shannon lost her bid for Congress. Dalton moved on to jobs as a finance director and director of member services for other Republican legislators. In 2001 she formed her own consulting firm, Dalton Public Relations and Government Affairs. She lobbied for realtors and grocers.
Then, last summer, Dalton turned 31 and realized she needed a career change.
“Eventually, it wasn’t satisfying anymore,” she said. “Do I really want to be taking calls from candidates at 10 p.m., complaining that their lawn signs were stolen? I feel I was always fighting to prove myself. It’s just exhausting work.”
So she enrolled in Willamette while working as a senior policy advisor for Rep. Vic Gilliam, R-Molalla. The opportunity to attend law school across the street from the State Capitol was too good to pass up, she said.
“I don’t know how you make laws and don’t have a law education. It’s eye-opening,” Dalton said. “The insight that law students can provide to legislators with no legal background is incredible.”
Gilliam said Dalton’s law school training makes her an even more effective political player.
“She doesn’t have to ask as much advice before moving ahead on a bill concept,” he said. “It’s taken her up a couple of notches.”