Life in the Barack Obama administration is tough - it's a seven-day-a-week, 15-hour-a-day job, leaving precious little time for loved ones, or really anything else. But for Franklin native Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, who serves as President-elect Barack Obama's associate director of personnel after working three presidential campaigns, it's all worth it.
Life in the Barack Obama administration is tough - it's a seven-day-a-week, 15-hour-a-day job, leaving precious little time for loved ones, or really anything else.
But for Franklin native Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, who serves as President-elect Barack Obama's associate director of personnel after working three presidential campaigns, it's all worth it.
"I love what I do. There are so many great parts of my job. To me, the best part is, I get up every morning and do something I believe in," said O'Malley Dillon.
"I really have been lucky - I've lived in Louisiana, South Dakota, Florida, and got to know people from all over the country, and it's been a tremendous experience," she said.
In her new role, O'Malley Dillon helps put people in Obama's administration, she said.
Roughly 300,000 people applied to work in the administration, she said, adding, "There's more in the realm of 3,000 or so jobs," she said.
So how did O'Malley Dillon find herself situated in such an esteemed position?
O'Malley Dillon, a Franklin High School graduate and 1998 alumni of Tufts University (where she majored in political science), started by volunteering in college, she said. Her first paid job in politics was answering phones for former state Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, she said.
Next, she held signs on the side of the road "with a bunch of kids," campaigning in Al Gore's presidential bid, she said.
"I loved talking to voters. You're on the front line talking to people, you really get a feel for what people really (need and want)," she said.
She fell in love with politics then and there, she said.
"That's the first time I got a feel for campaigns at a presidential level," said O'Malley Dillon.
O'Malley Dillon was a volunteer coordinator for two years in Al Gore's presidential campaign, and in 2002, acted as field director in South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson's successful campaign.
In 2003, she worked for John Edwards' presidential campaign in Iowa, and the following year, served as deputy campaign manager for Sen. Tom Daschle's re-election bid.
During the most recent presidential campaign, she worked as Edwards' state director before joining the Obama team as battleground states director.
But her interest in politics started at home, with her parents, Katherine, a second-grade teacher at Oak Street School, and her father Kevin O'Malley, a former assistant principal at Franklin High School who now heads the Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School.
"My dad always encouraged me to get active and be a strong Democrat," O'Malley Dillon said.
"That is for very sure," said her father, who was excited to talk about his daughter's success in the political arena.
"Frankly, I envy her. I'm envious not only of her energy, but of her vision for a better country - it's wonderful," O'Malley said.
O'Malley is more concerned about transforming American culture via education, whereas his daughter has chosen to take what he believes to be a more difficult path of changing the whole country, he said.
"That's a harder course - to worry about the larger culture and try to make this country a better place.
Many years ago, O'Malley walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. on the streets of Boston to fight for civil rights, he said, adding, "To think my daughter helped to elect an African American as president of the United States, in one lifetime ... makes me speechless," he said.
"It's a magnificent, wonderful thing for me personally to see, to see something me and a million others believed in, and my daughter helped make it happen," he said.
O'Malley's dream for his daughter is just for her to continue participating in the process of change, he said.
"She's a driven young lady, and she's not going to stop," said her proud father.
O'Malley also hopes his daughter will help bring people back to politics, he said.
"She believes every person has a place in the political spectrum. To make that happen (to get everyone involved), it's going to be a great journey - it's an American journey - she's helping the American journey unfold," he said.
During Obama's campaign, she said, "My mom was glued to CNN every day."
"They're very proud I'm working on behalf of Democrats, and things they believe in," she said.
To her, Democratic ideals are an overall package of important things America stands for, she said, "and maybe lost sight of recently."
"The economy first, and making sure the middle class is able to get by in these tough times," O'Malley Dillon said, adding that health care and education are the other cornerstones.
Her parents instilled in her at a young age the value of education, something not everyone is able to focus on, she said.
"We need to make education more affordable and accessible to everyone, and president-elect Obama will really focus on (that)," she said.
Fighting for Obama as his battleground states director was thrilling, O'Malley Dillon said.
"I've always played sports in school, and there's a tremendous team atmosphere when you work in a campaign," O'Malley Dillon said.
"It's just a tremendous thing for me to be a part of (electing) Obama. I am living my dream. I want to stay involved and do as much as I can, and make sure young people continue to get involved in politics," she said.
There are challenging aspects to her job, of course, she said.
"The amount of time it takes - I work seven days a week, 15 hours a day. I don't (have time to) go home to Franklin (much), or keep up with friends from high school and college. There's a lot of sacrifice that comes with it," said O'Malley Dillon, who lives in Washington, D.C., while her husband still lives in Iowa.
There is a lot of responsibility and room for young people to become involved in politics, O'Malley Dillon said.
"So many times, people don't want to get involved in politics. I think this campaign really changed that. People are excited again," she said.
O'Malley Dillon has a message for youth.
"The power of the young people was seen in this election. They were energized, they turned out in record numbers (and made an impact)," she said.
"It's their future. I encourage all young people to get involved, whether it's working in government, volunteering involved locally, volunteering at school," she said. "Stay active and energized because there's just too much at stake."
Joyce Kelly can be reached at 508-634-7582 or email@example.com.