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Vanessa has mentored and coached dozens of students over the years and received Willamette University College of Law’s “Outstanding Mentor” Award


Salem City Councilor, NonProfit Leader, Award-Winning Mentor, and Mental Health Advocate

I'm Salem City Councilor for Ward 7. City Councilors are unpaid, so my paying job is as Executive Director of CASA of Marion County, a non-profit organization dedicated to advocating for abused and neglected children in foster care.


I am a third-generation Salem, Oregon lawyer. I spent over fourteen years as an Assistant Attorney General at the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ). I handled hundreds of child abuse cases, as well as cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, robbery, murder, and civil rights. I handled multimillion dollar lawsuits and successfully defended my clients in jury trials. 

Out of the thousands of cases I handled, the child abuse cases stuck with me the most. The one thing they all had in common was the lack of a positive role model. Those kids had nobody who believed in them.  

In January 2023, I said farewell to DOJ and became the Executive Director of CASA of Marion County. CASA breaks the cycle of trauma and abuse that I saw over and over again in my DOJ caseload. The phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” takes on special meaning when you’re talking about kids in foster care. Watch my interview on CC Media "Protecting Salem's Children with Vanessa Nordyke" for more information. 

So, that’s the paid day job. I have another, I’ll be at unpaid position: Salem City Councilor. Salem City Councilors are unpaid elected officials for Oregon’s capital city. We set policy and budgets for local public safety, library, urban development, parks, neighborhoods, public works, stress and sidewalks, and more. I work closely with stakeholders across Salem’s diverse and rapidly growing community. Salem still thinks it’s a small town, but tens of thousands of people are moving here and we expect to have 60,000 more people by 2035. It’s an exciting time but the new interest in Salem amongst employers, retirees, and working people, has sharply raised property values, making affordable housing more and more scarce. That’s why I voted time and time again to create more affordable housing around the city. The work continues.

For the year 2018, I served as the youngest-ever elected president of the Oregon State Bar. In that capacity, I spearheaded OSB’s first wellness initiative, raised awareness of rural practice opportunities, and overhauled OSB’s new lawyer programming. I have co-presented trainings on mental health and substance abuse to lawyers and judges in across the state.

My dedication to Salem goes back to my teens, with work on issues like homelessness, veterans, mental health and more. I served on a quartet of City of Salem boards: the City of Salem Youth Advisory Commission, Social Services Advisory Board, Community Police Review Board, and the Citizen Budget Committee. She co-founded the Marion County Veterans Treatment Court. I co-captained a mock trial team of Latinx students through the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality.

In 2018, I made history as the youngest ever-elected President of the Oregon State Bar, a unified bar of approximately 19,000 lawyers and judges statewide. As President, Vanessa led a statewide mental health initiative for the Oregon legal community which continues to innovate to this day. My passion for destigmatizing mental illness led me to develop and conduct mental health trainings all over the state. I joined NAMI Oregon's Board of Directors and the statewide Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission. 

I'm a proud graduate of South Salem High School, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and University of Oregon School of Law.


I received DOJ's Excellence in Justice Award, the Marion County Bar Association’s Government Lawyer of the Year, Outstanding Mentor Award from Willamette University College of Law, and the University of Oregon School of Law’s Outstanding Young Alumnus Award.

People sometimes ask me if I ever do anything fun. Why, yes, I do! I'm a proud dogmom and you can find Sierra and I strolling through Salem's parks and trails. I love karaoke, traveling, cooking, and the great outdoors. I try to camp every year, schedule (and weather) permitting. 

In Court.jpg

Vanessa was an Assistant Attorney General at the Oregon Department of Justice from 2008 to 2023. She received DOJ"s Excellence in Justice Award,one of DOJ's highest honors.  This photo was taken inside the Multnomah County Courthouse while she was waiting for the jury's verdict. She won. 


In 2023, Vanessa became Executive Director of CASA of Marion County, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for abused and neglected children in foster care. Watch the YouTube Interview here.

During the pandemic, Vanessa volunteered at three homeless shelters and delivered food to local seniors for Meals on Wheels.

2024 Reelection Campaign Interview with League of Women Voters 

Protecting Child Abuse Survivors - Interview with Capital Community Media

Giving Back

My volunteer work since 2009

  • Member, State of Oregon Drug and Alcohol Policy Commission

  • Member, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency Board of Directors

  • Member, NAMI Oregon Board of Directors

  • Member, KMUZ Community Radio Advisory Council, 2019 - Present

  • Member, YMCA Board of Directors 2019 - Present

  • President, Willamette Valley American Inn of Court 2019-2020

  • President, Oregon State Bar, 2018 

  • Member, City of Salem Citizens Budget Committee 2017 – Present

  • Member, Oregon State Bar Board of Governors 2015 – 2019

  • Member, Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality Mock Trial Team 2013 – 2014 

  • Board Member, Rotary Club of Salem 2013 

  • Team Leader, Willamette Valley American Inn of Court 2013 – 2018 

  • Chair, Oregon State Bar Judicial Admin. Committee 2012 – 2013 

  • Chair, Mary Leonard Law Society Essay Contest 2012

  • Member, City of Salem Social Services Advisory Board 2012 – 2015

  • Member, City of Salem Community Police Review Board 2013 – 2014

  • Member, Marion County Veterans Docket Steering Committee 2011- 2013

  • Outstanding Mentor, Willamette University College of Law 2012

  • Co-Chair, Campaign for Equal Justice Marion County Luncheon 2012

  • Nominee, Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Service 2011

  • Recipient, Oregon Department of Justice Excellence in Justice Award 2010

  • Delegate, Oregon State Bar House of Delegates 2010 – 2014

  • President, Mary Leonard Law Society 2010 – 2011

  • Co-Chair, Third Annual Soiree Against Hunger 2011

  • Committee Member, Marion County Sheriff’s Office Community Advisory Committee 2010 – 2013

  • Mentor, Willamette University College of Law Mentoring Program 2010 

  • Table Captain, Campaign for Equal Justice Luncheon 2010

  • Graduate, Marion County Sheriff Office’s Citizen’s Academy 2010

  • Volunteer, Imprint Program 2010

  • Apparel Sale Coordinator for Governor’s Food Drive, Oregon Department of Justice 2009

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