Localism in Politics

By Chelsea Rose Moore

It’s no surprise that supporting a small business over a big-brand company has become a movement amongst Millennials. Instagram has helped popularize hashtags #shopsmall, #buylocal, #supportsmallbusiness – each with millions of posts attributed to the tag – and has given small businesses a platform to share their stories. Supporting local businesses offers consumers an immediate gratification: it directly impacts the shop owners by putting food on their tables at home, paying for their daughter’s ballet classes, and giving their son a new soccer ball for Christmas. Localism might be a trend, but for others it is simply a lifestyle, a trait that has become deeply rooted in their daily lives. To these individuals, the most impactful way to make a difference in the world is to care for their community.

 Eric with his wife Alice

Eric with his wife Alice

If you ask Eric Roe about state and local politics, he will tell you it’s no different. He is a deep believer in localism, and finds that local government offers the most direct impact on a person’s day-to-day life. His professional experience – from the nonprofit sector to public policy analysis – has given him a firm understanding of the policy-making process and has allowed him to enter the world of state government well-prepared. He currently serves as state representative for the 158th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and he is devoted to making his community a better place for current residents, and for those who come after him.

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Eric was raised in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Having spent most of his life in the district helped convince voters that he was the right person for the job. Voters already knew him, they knew his character, they knew his family. Their children had attended school with him.

With few exceptions, Eric believes the more local the control, the better. He thinks the further down on the ballot you go, the more direct impact a public official has on your day-to-day life. “Local government municipalities have to rectify problems that most of us don’t ever think about.”

A pothole needs fixing? Call your representative.

A road needs reparation from winter damage? Call your representative.

As state representative, Eric’s job is to protect his community and protect the role of the state, while not overstepping boundaries. Local government helps keep the federal government in check and preserves the values individuals states hold dear. As Eric points out, Pennsylvania’s needs are different than the needs of states like Texas and California.

When I spoke with Eric, he had just wrapped up a surprise call from a constituent. He had met her during his campaign last year, and had offered his personal cell number, with an encouragement to call if she ever had questions. Months later, she took him up on his offer, contacting him to ask about a sewer issue, as the town had been considering levying a new tax to pay for it. She wanted to learn more, and Eric was more than happy to assist. Just before her call, he had attended a meeting about that exact issue and was able to provide her with details.

Eric’s passion for his community is evident through the myriad of things in which he participates: He served on the Board of Directors of the Domestic Violence Center of Chester County and volunteered as a citizenship class teacher for a local nonprofit called La Comunidad Hispana. He does most of his shopping in his district to contribute to a strong local economy and ensure that his constituents are being supported by their state representative. One of his pet issues is to ease regulations on small businesses so they can hire more workers and provide better paying jobs for families. He hopes to help improve the local economic climate, to attract new businesses and to keep locals in Pennsylvania. “The burden is on the state to create a better economic climate for businesses to thrive.”

He urges young people to return to their hometowns, invest in the places they grew up, and make them better places to live in. “It is good to take those new skills you learn elsewhere and bring them back home.”

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Eric is no stranger to learning new skills in new places.

As an undergraduate at American University in Washington D.C., he studied political science. His family had “strong political feelings,” but he never dreamed he would grow a passion for public policy. He interned on Capitol Hill between semesters and found himself hooked on public service.

During most of his undergraduate career, he worked full-time at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Republican National Committee, while concurrently attending night classes. His days at the office ran from 8:00am – 5:00pm, and he then attended class from 5:30pm – 10:45pm. Homework was primarily completed on the weekends, and whenever else he found time. Eric reflects on this as a period of growth and preparation for his future, and a time when his work ethic was shaped.

“Without that, I think I might feel entitled to a lot more personal time than I am. Campaigning last year would have been much more difficult. I know the joys of hard work and the payoff that comes with it.”

His eventually became an assistant to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, before moving on to become a Special Assistant at the Chertoff Group – a homeland security consulting firm – and then Deputy Regional Coordinator at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the American Conservative Union. He then moved to London, England to study at University College London. Studying American policies in London, from the “outside looking in,” was eye-opening for him. It was during this time he met his wife, Alice, at the church he attended while studying in London.

Eric headed back to the states to spend the next fall as a fellow at the John Jay Institute, which deepened his understanding of public policy. “My time at John Jay helped me to be able to articulate a message through the lens of constitutional principles. Without that, I might not be as prepared to make a case for a public policy and make that connection to the governing principles that are important to America.”

His journey over the last few years led him back home to Chester County, where he accepted a position as Administrative Analyst for the Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline, and later began his campaign for state representative.

“I had to prove my qualifications to the Republican Committee of Chester County – to show that I could win, and that I could govern well, and apply principles practically in the role of state representative.”

He did not win the GOP committee's hearts immediately, however, and lost the endorsement to a fellow Republican opponent. But when his opponent dropped out of the race, Eric ran a write-in campaign and won – and then won again in November’s general election in 2016.

One of his greatest desires is to help Pennsylvania become the most family-friendly and business-friendly state in the country, a reality he hopes to achieve during his lifetime. He is a firm believer in the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and this belief leads him to focus on building policies to lower taxes, allow Pennsylvanians to prosper, and preserve human lives. One of his goals as state representative is to help cultivate a society that has a deep respect for life, from Pennsylvania’s youngest to its oldest citizens. He is also passionate about helping victims of domestic violence, and is working on several bills to help victims prosper.

He has already begun campaigning for his second term, with the election in November 2018.