Angela Wilhelms, 14, left, accompanied her father, lobbyist Gary Wilhelms, far right, on a lobbying trip to Washington, D.C. in 1992. Between them is then-U.S. Rep. Mike Kopetski.
Family Business Third-year law student Angela Wilhelms grew up watching her father help run the Oregon House of Representatives. Now she has his old job. This spring’s short legislative session in Oregon had all the makings of a political disaster: an evenly split House, a state climbing its way out of a recession, and a governor demanding big changes in the state’s education and health care systems. But by the time the end-of-session gavel came down in March, lawmakers were drawing praise for their ability to cooperate and avoid the gridlock that has stymied other legislatures around the nation. Less publicly noticed were the legislative staffers who tamp down rivalries and smooth disagreements before they blow up into major issues. Angela Wilhelms, chief of staff for House Republican co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, was a key player in Hanna’s negotiations with Democratic co-Speaker Arnie Roblan and Gov. John Kitzhaber. Wilhelms, who is pursuing a joint JD/MBA degree and expects to graduate in 2013, sat in on budget talks, managed the flow of bills and alerted legislators to eleventh-hour changes in their proposals.
“In this atmosphere, there are a lot of people more in love with themselves than with anybody, and you’ve got to be able to deal with that. I happen to believe my daughter is excellent at it.”
“She has a depth of understanding of public policy that is amazing,” said Republican Rep. Matt Wand of Troutdale. “You can spend hours and hours just to get a toehold on an issue, but she has the toeholds nailed. She has a striking memory for details.”
That’s not surprising, given her background. Wilhelms’ dad is Gary Wilhelms, the Republican House minority leader in the late 1970s and, more recently, chief of staff for former House speakers Lynn Snodgrass and Karen Minnis. Wilhelms was 12 months old when her mother brought her to former Gov. Vic Atiyeh’s office to uncork Champagne at the end of the 1979 session; her father toted her along with him to
38 | Willamette Lawyer