2018-05-01 / Spotlight

Raising Her Voice

Erin Condo McCracken holds a lot of roles. She’s a business owner with her husband, Josh. She’s a mother to two boys, Roscoe and Booker. She’s a musician and leader to her Hoofties bandmates. “I’ve lived a pretty crazy life, in some ways an unconventional life.” Now, she’s looking to add another role to her roster: state legislator.

“I’m not a career politician, and I have no ambition to be,” she says. “But I have lived a life of service, and so for me it’s the next logical step.”

She grew up in Maryland, but McCracken’s roots are in Central Pennsylvania. “My family’s been here since before the Revolutionary War,” she says. She got a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Penn State and then took off, living in California, West Virginia, North Carolina and Texas and earning two master’s degrees — one in social work and one in public administration — before returning to the area to start a doctorate program in rural sociology at Penn State.

“When I moved back this last time, I knew that I wanted to live in a rural place,” she says. “I’d been living in big cities where it was hard to access other people in a meaningful way or contribute.”

Since then she’s been contributing to the culture in Millheim, where her catering and events business, EcoVents, is based in the Bremen Town Ballroom, which she and her husband revived.

But she knew she wanted to do more. An empty slot on the ballot for state representative in the 171st district seemed like the right opportunity.

“It’s like I get to have a voice in a new way that I hadn’t before, as a rural woman, as a mother, as a business owner,” she says. “I get to talk about all of those things, and we can spread a different message.”

HIGH NOTE “When I was 16 I started playing guitar. I liked heavy metal music. Then when I was an undergrad here, somebody took me to an Indigo Girls concert. I saw Amy Ray with her black acoustic guitar and she just looked so confident and I’d never seen a woman doing that. Now we take it for granted that girls and women are playing guitar, but I didn’t have anybody that I looked up to. Seeing the Indigo Girls was so inspiring to me. I learned all of their songs just by listening to their CDs over and over again.”

FARM TO TABLE “It’s been amazing the way food can connect people, and especially me — it really roots me in my community. We’re surrounded by farmers and farming organizations. We’re part of a community-supported agriculture program, Groundwork Farms. My husband makes bread for them and I do a weekly soup using produce bought from the farmers. It’s just sort of easy to be that way here. It is a really strong part of the revitalization that’s happening, and Main Street can’t happen without it.”

SHARED SPACES “There’s a lot of tradition that’s still In Millheim. It isn’t just people coming in and taking over the town. There’s a hardware store that has long-established roots. There’s a hotel that has long-established roots. There’s a meat market that’s local and everybody comes from all around to use it. They make really good bacon and really good hot dogs. But the thing that seems to have boosted it and made it feel more community-like is these community spaces like Elk Creek Cafe and Inglebean Coffee House.”

A GOOD RUN “I’m not running against anybody. It’s about getting my ideas and my vision out there. It’s a real exciting opportunity to kind of do what we already do in our community — it’s much more than serving food, it’s much more than playing music. We have so many small towns that are struggling to do the same thing we are in Millheim.  I have a vision for how to hold onto tradition and build up small economies. It felt like I was the person to do it.”

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