Former Ore. campaigner finds stability in D.C.

After mastering the art of campaigning, Oregon native Erin Devaney has decided to settle in Washington in a home away from home — Rep. David Wu’s (D-Ore.) office. The 25-year-old Devaney recently became Wu’s new scheduler, but the route she took to get here was filled with the day-to-day, caffeine-induced trials of a campaigner.

Since her own successful bid for student body president at Portland State University, Devaney has worked on three additional campaigns, including running the field operations for President Obama’s effort in Multnomah County, Ore., an experience she describes as equal parts stressful and rewarding. Her candidate has emerged victorious at the end of each race, and she attributes this success to a never-quit mentality.

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“I’m just incredibly stubborn. I don’t stop,” she says. “I’m very much nose to the grindstone, just put my head down and work my way through something. I’ve learned a lot of skills about planning, and I’ve made enough mistakes to where now when I work on a campaign or in an office, there’s particular things that I know not to do.”

This determination was on full display during Devaney’s time at Portland State. Motivated by rising tuition costs after Oregon’s freeze on public college tuition increases expired during her freshman year, Devaney, a first-generation college student, transformed herself into a diplomatic force on campus. She lobbied state legislators and got involved in student government, eventually rising to the post of student body president. (Despite earning a B.A. in history, Devaney jokes that her true education at college came through learning the ins and outs of campaigning and legislating.)

Her success in that arena led to work on an Oregon State Legislature campaign and eventually Obama’s campaign. After the November election, Devaney allowed herself a couple of months of “blissful” unemployment before jumping back into the campaign saddle with a school board race that resulted in a May victory. Now she finds herself in the nation’s capital, eagerly anticipating a steady job.

“I love my campaign experiences, but I like the fact that I can continue to work in Washington and grow in a position,” she said. “Whereas campaigns tend to be these short stints, it’s harder to see the fruits of your labor, and even though you win or you lose in the end, that’s it.”

As she alluded to, Devaney is here for the long haul. She anticipates it will take a few years to learn the nuances of political life in Washington, but when pressed on her future ambitions, Devaney is quick to say that life in the political spotlight isn’t for her.

“I think with all my experience on campaigns and working closely with candidates, I honestly don’t know how they do it,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a candidate, to give your life to somebody else. I think there are many different forms of public service, and mine just might be on this end versus the candidate end.”