Young Janesville native passionate about politics

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Anna Marie Lux
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MADISON--Analiese Eicher was a high school student when she talked her way into the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

Joe Van Rooy, her advanced government teacher at Janesville's Parker High School, remembers the incident, which occurred while Eicher attended Washington Seminar.

“Her seminar topic was bioterrorism,” Van Rooy said. “It was a difficult topic. Many people at Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services were reluctant to talk to her because of the classified nature of the topic. But Analiese wasn't deterred.”

Eicher was able to get a tour of the “situation room,” where officials monitor things such as West Nile virus, epidemics and bioterrorism threats, Van Rooy explained.

“It's a hush-hush place designed by Tommy Thompson, former Health and Human Services secretary,” he said.

Van Rooy leads the annual Washington Seminar, which allows students to study in-depth topics in Washington, D.C.

He likes to share the memory about Eicher, who graduated from Parker High School in 2006, because it reveals her highly motivated character.

“It's a great story of initiative,” Van Rooy said. “This is someone who is not easily pushed back.”

Since leaving Janesville, Eicher has continued to show her tenacity to get things done. Earlier this month, Brava magazine of Madison named the 25-year-old among “Women to Watch in 2014.”

Eicher of Sun Prairie works as program and development director for One Wisconsin Now, a nonprofit advocacy group that supports progressive ideas and policies.

For about a year, she has been researching, developing and running the agency's campaign on the student loan debt problem and creating momentum for policy changes.

“We are trying to educate people about the crisis, what it means to local and state economies and to people of my generation who just want an education,” Eicher said. “We are trying to propose solutions for this crisis, which is holding an entire generation of young people back.”

Eicher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from UW-Madison in May 2011. Prior to her current job, she was a volunteer and staff member for several political campaigns and civic efforts. Often, she held the positions while still in college.

Among her experiences are:

-- Chairwoman of the women's caucus of the College Democrats of America.

One of the first big efforts of the Obama presidency after his election in 2008 was health care reform.

“Our nationwide network of college students organized on our campuses and in our state to help get the bill passed,” Eicher said. “We saw a way of making an impact, we took action, and I'm still incredibly proud of what we did.”

-- Dane County Board supervisor.

In 2010, Eicher ran for the District 5 seat, traditionally held by a student.

“Previous persons who held the seat missed meetings, were not active participants in the process and did not communicate with constituents,” she said.

Through hard work, Eicher said she brought back respect to the seat, which she filled until March 2012.

-- Government relations director for United Council of UW Students.

In her role, Eicher was chief lobbyist and legislative strategist for the 150,000 member group. In 2011, she worked with both Democrats and Republicans on issues of voter ID, financial aid, student loan debt and funding for the UW System.

Eicher also served as a campus organizer for UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and Beloit College in 2008 for Tammy Baldwin's national congressional campaign. Two years later, she worked as campaign manager for State Rep. Dianne Hesselbein, a Democrat who represents the 79th Assembly District. Eicher worked for Hesselbein's campaign before redistricting, when Hesselbein represented the 77th Assembly District.

“I'm very impressed with her ability to organize,” Hesselbein said. “She has an incredible amount of energy and vision for how she wants things to be.”

Eicher is the daughter of educators Bob and Sue Ann Eicher of Janesville.

She traces her passion for politics to an experience in 1998, when her mother took her to a political rally. Then first lady Hillary Clinton campaigned for Tammy Baldwin at Janesville's Marshall Middle School.

“I'm standing there on a chair and holding a sign and cheering for our first lady,” Eicher recalls. “Then I'm realizing it is almost the year 2000, and we don't have a woman in Congress from Wisconsin. It had a significant impact on me. Here was this fifth-grader wondering why Wisconsin did not have any women in Congress.”

The 10-year-old child followed Baldwin's campaign and watched her be elected to the House of Representatives.

“I was pretty aware,” Eicher said. “I read everything. That is who I was and who I am.”

At Parker High School, she thought that medical school was in her future. Later, she set her sights on public service.

“A lot of people complain and say that things are broken,” Van Rooy said. “But what we need are more people like Analiese, who get involved with a positive spirit. It is very important that we get our young people excited about and engaged in democracy.”

Eicher calls herself an incredibly optimistic person, who wants people to get back to talking to each other.

“If we can get back to speaking about and working for our communities, and not just for ourselves, we will see a turnaround,” she said. “I am going to work to make that happen.”

Anna Marie Lux is a columnist for The Gazette. Her columns run Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.

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