Volume XX | Issue 2 | Spring 2020
Liz Hill, Ford Scholar, Class of 2004, works in Washington, D.C. Photo: Courtesy of Liz Hill

Interest in politics sparked in high school

Despite address in Washington, D.C., Oregon is home for Ford Scholar

Liz Hill’s bright trajectory into the realm of government and politics all started in her Coos Bay high school. With the encouragement of then-high school principal Arnie Roblan, Hill took her first trip to Salem as part of Marshfield High School’s Youth in Government program. There, she spent a week in the Capitol participating as a mock member of the Oregon Legislature. 

I saw appropriations as a way to bring money back to Oregon

Her interest in politics sparked, she soon ran for student body president. “Arnie encouraged me and gave me a lot of support,” she remembers, some 15 years later. “I won and that really started my involvement in the political realm.”

Willamette University

After graduating from Marshfield in 2004, Hill returned to Salem — this time as a Ford Scholar at Willamette University, just across the street from the Legislature. That year, Roblan won his seat as Coos Bay’s state representative. Soon, Hill was serving as Roblan’s intern, and by the time she was a junior, working for him full time.

“That really opened my eyes to how impactful politics and government can be on communities,” Hill says. “I became really interested in how I can help the community I grew up in from a policy perspective. That’s when I learned you can do this role in the Oregon Legislature, and later on, in D.C.”

The effect of politics on Oregon’s rural communities became quickly apparent to Hill after she began working as a staff assistant to Jeff Merkley when he became a U.S. Senator. 

“I drove him around to all 36 counties in Oregon and attended all the meetings that were part of that,” she says. “I sat there, a fly on the wall, as he was just starting out and learning about the issues outside the Portland area.”

A year later, Hill went to Washington, D.C., to work as Merkley’s aide, a pivotal career move she says was in part possible because of her scholarship. 

“I was really excited to be able to go,” she says. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of money and living in D.C. costs a lot. Because I was not strapped with student loans, I could. You don’t see a lot of rural kids from Oregon come to D.C. It’s just too expensive.”

Hill took a break from her work in Merkley’s office in 2012 to come home to Oregon, where she ran Peter DeFazio’s reelection campaign, returning to Merkley’s office to oversee appropriations work. 

“I saw appropriations as a way to bring money back to Oregon, to bring federal dollars back to the communities in a meaningful way,” she says. She expanded that interest when, in 2015, she moved over to the House of Representatives to fill the brand-new position of director of Northwest Policy for ranking member DeFazio, focused on making sure communities in the region got the money they needed for transportation and infrastructure. 

In August of 2018, Hill was appointed as the Democratic staff director of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee. 

Although her address is in Washington, D.C., Hill still considers Oregon her home. She was married in 2016 in Coos Bay to Roseburg native Matt Hill, currently the executive director of Douglas Timber Operators. 

The pair met several years ago in the Capitol, where Matt Hill was working as a lobbyist. 

“We worked together for a few years, and discovered how much we had in common — working for rural communities dependent on natural resources,” Hill says. They have a 1-year-old son, Noah. 

“I’ve been very fortunate to be in the position I’ve been in for the last 15 years or so, with people, like Arnie Roblan, encouraging and pushing me all the way,” she says.  

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