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Teen from Idaho Falls elected Governor of Girls State for the first time in nearly 20 years


IDAHO FALLS — A local teenager led Idaho Girls State as Governor during a week-long mock government and leadership program sponsored by the American Legion Auxiliary.

Tessa Dalton, 17, of Idaho Falls, was elected Governor of Idaho Syringa Girls State in 2021 from among hundreds of high school students from across the state. Tessa led the 2022 Girls State event in person last week at Northwest Nazarene University, where she fulfilled her duties as the Idaho Girls State top executive.

“I was excited just to be selected to participate in Girls State but it has been a huge honor to serve as Governor,” Tessa said. “The American Legion Auxiliary has created an incredible leadership development program for Idaho’s young women.”

Tessa Dalton and Joan Woods during work session
Girls State Governor Tessa Dalton of Idaho Falls (left) and Girls Nation Delegate Joan Woods of Meridian (right) pose for a selfie in front of a Girls State work session. | Courtesy photo

Girls State delegates are sponsored by local chapters of the American Legion Auxiliary to attend the weeklong seminar where they learn from top female leaders in government, non-profit, military service, and private enterprise. They also meet and hear messages from Idaho elected officials.

“It was amazing to learn from the many distinguished speakers, but so much more fun to give our own speeches, write bills, and debate real issues,” Tessa said. “Meeting Governor Brad Little was inspiring, but I was especially moved when we visited the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery and had the chance to lay a brick there for the 75th Anniversary of Idaho Syringa Girls State. We need to do so much more for those who serve our country and are willing to give everything in defense of liberty and our Constitution.”

Delegates are organized into mock cities, counties, and political parties, where they draft bills and campaign for local, county, and statewide offices. The week culminates with delegates taking over the Idaho State Capitol to fulfill the duties of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches to consider mock legislation, hear mock court cases, and debate the issues of the day.

2022 Girls State Delegation Tessa Dalton middle front
The 2022 Idaho Syringa Girls State delegation on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. | Courtesy Idaho Syringa Girls State

Tessa is the first Girls State Governor from Idaho Falls in nearly 20 years, and the eight Idaho Falls woman to be elected to the top office since the Idaho Syringa Girls State program began in 1947.

Tessa recently graduated Valedictorian from American Heritage Charter School in Idaho Falls, where she also served as Student Body President.

“I’ve been really lucky to have had opportunities to serve others while developing leadership skills,” said Tessa. “My focus has been on honoring our Military Service members and serving the Veterans who have served our country and continue to lead in our communities.”

Tessa learned about Girls State from her father Jim Dalton, an attorney in Idaho Falls. He was elected Boys State Governor nearly 30 years ago.

1993 Photo of Jim Dalton as Governor of Idaho Boys State with his Chief of Staff
Jim Dalton (right) prepares to veto a controversial bill in Governor Cecil Andrus’ office while serving as Boys State Governor during the 1993 Idaho Gem Boys State session. | Courtesy Jim Dalton

“Tessa is a natural leader, a brilliant student, and a talented musician. I can’t wait to see what she does next,” Jim said.

Tessa is also an accomplished, multi-instrument musician with a special passion for the fiddle. Having won fiddle competitions in Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Wyoming, Tessa plans to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee in the Fall, where she will study commercial music.

In addition to her musical ambitions, Tessa affirmed that her experiences at Girls State reflect a deep desire to be an active citizen, give back, and serve others.

“Even if you don’t hear me on the radio someday, you might just see me in the courtroom, the boardroom, or maybe even the Capitol,” she said.

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