Twitter Personality of the Week #48: 10 Questions for Ericka Andersen (@ErickaAndersen)

With a fair amount of regularity, I like to turn the Twitter Personality spotlight back to my own state and profile a fellow Hoosier. It has
been a few months since I did so; I think the last selection to hail from Indiana was Fingers Malloy. This week, we feature a Hoosier-turned-DC-resident who has made Indiana conservatives proud by making a positive difference in the nation’s capital: Ericka Andersen.

With my Dad and sister.

I first met Ericka last fall when she was working for the GOP House Leadership team, led at the time by Indiana’s most well-known
Congressman, Mike Pence. In early September, Ericka convened a gathering  right in the Capitol Building of bloggers from across the country that served as the official opening event for the first annual BlogCon, sponsored by FreedomWorks. I was favorably impressed as I observed her professional demeanor firsthand, since she was responsible for arranging the logistics of the event.

I have continued to be pleased with Ericka’s comprehension of the increasingly integral role that social media plays in the conservative
movement. Since moving over to the Heritage Foundation a few months ago, she has maintained outreach to New Media outlets around the country. But Ericka isn’t simply an observer of the blogging scene; she is a bona fide participant who understands the medium in a way only those immersed in it can.

There is a decent chance, though, that none of the above would matter a whole lot if Ericka wasn’t a luminously kind and gracious woman. But she is. I’ve found Ericka Andersen to be that radiant type of person you always enjoy getting to talk to for a few minutes…still brimming with a sense of wonder and joy, rather than hardened by the cynicism that can be prevalent in Washington. Keep reading and I believe you’ll concur with my assessment.

10 Questions for Ericka Andersen

Ericka and Rick...who occupies a signature role in her life!

1. It’s about time I profiled someone else from Indiana! I know you’re an IU alumnus, but did you grow up in the state?

Actually, I was born in Witchita, Kansas, where my parents lived for a short period of time when they were young. I only lived there for a
year and then moved to my parents’ home town of Bloomington, Indiana – where I remained until the end of college in 2005!

2. What led you to DC and eventually to the point where you worked on Capitol Hill for a few years?

After college, I wasn’t sure what career path I would take. I majored in Journalism, but just didn’t see myself becoming a typical reporter. It was at this time that I was becoming interested in conservative politics –  mostly reading Townhall.com and the Drudge
Report daily.  I had to make a decision about starting a real career, so I applied for an internship in DC with the National Journalism Center and was placed at the Washington Examiner. Little did I know how far NJC would take me. They have an amazing class of alumni and are so well respected within the conservative movement. My stint there really helped introduced me to lots of influential and important players. Eventually, I landed a job reporting at Human Events – a place where I continued to rub shoulders with so many well respected conservative leaders. I had the opportunity to interview Senators and Presidential candidates.  It was a dream come true. After that, I took the chance to work for a conservative startup publication called Culture11, which was spearheaded by Bill Bennett. In fact, Bennett interviewed me for my job and I was ecstatic to start on this new project. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. I moved on to Capitol Hill after that – getting a blessed job in the House Republican Conference under Chairman Mike Pence.

With Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, while serving the House GOP Leadership team..

I initially applied for the job  because I really respected Pence and because he was from Indiana. It was there that my career in social media and communications began to take off a bit more. I had a wonderful experience on the Hill and really enjoyed working so closely with Members of Congress and being inside all the excitement.

3. Tell us about your current role at the Heritage Foundation.

I’m currently on the online communications team at Heritage. I work primarily with our social media – Facebook & Twitter  — to develop online strategy and deliver the Heritage message in an effective and wide reaching way. I keep up with what’s happening in the new media world and try to come up with ideas we can use to get our message out. I also help do blogger outreach with the same folks (and new ones being added) I’ve been working with for several years. The great thing about my jobs has been that I continue working for the same cause, so I’m able to keep my contacts fresh and utilize them everywhere I go. It’s been great keeping up those relationships and working with folks who are truly online activists. I also write for our blog, The Foundry, and generally try to come up with new ways to increase our traffic, increase reader interaction and make the Foundry the best product we can.

Two good friends!

4. If you were asked for 3 formative influences (aside from your parents) who have led to the development of your conservative worldview, who would they be?

This is a tough one for me because my life’s influences aren’t typically politically related. Stories I’ve seen over the years of entrepreneurs in my own family (there are a lot of them!) struggling to build a business and finding success in that have had a strong influence on me. I’ve always been inspired by the writings of great conservative thinkers like Buckley, Bill Bennett, people like Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan, of course. All the great success stories in life – of people that overcame hardship, disabilities, overwhelming setbacks and mere impossibilities – those are all cases for conservatism, in my opinion. They are about hard work, self reliance, determination, pride, confidence, strength.  These attributes, of course, are still valued today, but the encouragement to reach for them has  been dulled by the idea that the government can and will take care of many things for you. There are people that need help, there are safety nets that must be in place…there is a right place for government, but the culture of apathy and dependence has really begun to take over. I think pride in oneself, in one’s work, has been really lost rather recently. That’s a little off topic but…I could go on!

5. You’ve recently started a very attractive food blog with lots of tasty-looking recipes that I’m eager to try! What led to this decision?

Thanks for mentioning my new blog! It’s actually food and fitness, as I also write about my marathon training and nutrition. One of my
good friends started one and I began reading hers, which linked to other food/fitness blogs. Well, I became addicted to reading these things! I enjoyed reading about women whose lives were balanced, full and focused on health, fitness and good food.  It was like I
discovered an entire community of people I could connect with in a way I never had. I kind of felt like I was discovering the Internet for the first time! So I took a blog that I had previously used for personal political postings and made into an apolitical food and fitness blog, where I try new recipes and basically share the details of my life. That’s everything from Birthday parties and vacations to book reviews, personal essays and more.

6. Have you always been an avid fitness fanatic and do you run every day or do you skip a morning every once in a while?

In Chicago to run the Marathon there.

I have always been interested in keeping fit, but started running in 2003.  I always kept it up, but in 2006, I started thinking I might like to run a marathon. It seemed daunting, but not impossible. When my sister ran her first marathon in 2007, the urge got stronger – so, I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon. I did not train very well for this race, but was still able to run it in a decent time. Since then, I’ve run two other marathons and will be running 2 more later this year. I do not run everyday….my legs get tired! I run 3-4 days a week and usually, just one of those is over 6 miles. Marathon training keeps you on a good schedule so your legs do not get too worn out.
Right now, long Saturday runs are reaching over 16 miles, so it’s getting tough! After my marathons this year, I plan to take a month off from running.

7. Please share some of your favorites in the following pastimes, that you’ve come to enjoy: Books, Movies, Musical Artists, FOODS (and throw a few random categories in here, too!)

I’m a book fanatic…I read everything: fiction, nonfiction, biographies, chick lit, classics. I just finished both Anna Karenina and the latest Jennifer Weiner book. I’m in a book club with a bunch of girls and we have a blast!

I love country music….it is so unique from any other kind of music and I just love the community you see in the country music sphere. They seem so much less pretentious and more down to earth than any other industry. Their music tells a story and it just makes me so happy – and nostalgic. My high school and college years were filled with some awesome nights, all to a soundtrack of Hank Williams Jr, Brad Paisley, George Strait, Montgomery Gentry and more.

Everyone who knows me knows my all time favorite thing is dark chocolate. I love it more than probably any other food. If you put dark
chocolate and peanut butter together, I’m in heaven. I have a major sweet tooth and probably eat chocolate every single day. I also love sweet potatoes!

Traveling in Lebanon.

I have a passion for traveling. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Africa, India, Europe, Venezuela, Lebanon and more. I am intrigued by other parts of the world and inspired by what I’ve seen though. I believe it has given me a deeper perspective about the world and an appreciation for other cultures.

8. You’re still young, but you’ve been in Washington,  DC, long enough to witness some history up close! What do you call to mind when you think of both the trials and joys that come with participation in the conservative movement?

It can be frustrating because conservative opinions are stereotyped SO much in the news. Not to focus too much on the “liberal media”
but…when they zero in on issues like abortion and gay rights, it takes away from the WIDE ARRAY of issues conservatives care about. Social issues get too much focus in the media, in my opinion. Also, just the stereotypes that come from the label “conservative,” in general. In DC, you can go places where when people hear you are a Republican, and it’s like you are a foreign creature. Often, I’ve heard, “you’re not so bad for a Republican.” Or people have been surprised that I’m nice and have compassion for others! The
misconceptions are endless. People who think conservatives want to get rid of EVERY kind of government help or are simply completely ignorant to the long term goals or reasons behind why some conservative policies seem harsh. There’s a big picture that most people don’t take the time to identify.

9. Are you a person of faith and should religious conviction play a role in politics?

I am a Christian. Religious conviction will always play some role in the decisions people make in politics, whether they think they are or not. I don’t think policy or legislation should be guided by a certain religion, though. In fact, I really keep my politics separate from my
religion completely because I don’t think they mix.  Though I will say I dislike when liberals use the Bible verses about feeding the poor and hungry as an excuse for the federal government “taking care” of everyone. I believe that verse applies to individuals and God is commanding us as individuals to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, etc. To me, it is so clear that Jesus is speaking to each person, not to some vague, faceless government. I don’t think Jesus would have affiliated with a political party though there is a need for good people to be involved in politics and ensure that they are protecting the important principles of this country.

10. What would you like to be doing in 10 years?

In 10 years, I would like to have a family and be raising my kids – as well as continue being involved in causes for which I’m passionate. I will always write so I’d love to be a stay at home mom and do freelance writing or have a job where I can work from home doing something that I think matters to the world as a whole.

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