Women to Watch: Erin Schrimpf

Women to Watch: Erin Schrimpf

By Rachael Dunn

Tightline Public Affairs has been a quarterback in campaign circles for over a decade. They were instrumental in the passage of Amendment 2, and they continue their involvement assisting the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade). One Woman to Watch is part of the Tightline team: Erin Schrimpf, principal at Tightline Public Affairs.

“You’ve most likely seen our names pop up as quoted in the media as spokespersons for Amendment 2 or MoCannTrade,” Schrimpf said. “Having been deeply involved in the campaign, we have a sincere passion and goal to help make sure Missouri has the best medical marijuana law in the country. So we work to help MoCannTrade and others working within the industry, like doctors, patients, and veterans, shape public opinion and engage policymakers to try and accomplish that.”

Schrimpf grew up in Jefferson City, where her parents were both active in state politics. She says pursuing a career in politics felt “a little cliche at times, but there was never anything else I really wanted to do, besides being a veterinarian, but I was 5 and my parents wouldn’t let me have a dog, so here we are.”

After graduating from Mizzou, Schrimpf went on to serve as a social assistant for public affairs for the then-newly elected mayor of Kansas City, Sly James.

“I handled a number of the office’s day-to-day communications operations, but I had the opportunity to do a lot of speechwriting and spent a lot of time with the Mayor at speeches, events, and meetings,” she said. “The Mayor really encouraged my love for both writing and politics and after three years I was onto the next challenge which was getting my Masters at Georgetown University. After graduate school, I was appointed to a Presidential Management Fellowship which opened up all kinds of interesting work experiences. I served as a speechwriter at the Department of Veterans Affairs and also worked on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs for Ranking Member Jon Tester.”

Eventually, all roads led back to Missouri, which is where she always wanted to be, working in politics in her home state. Before serving as the Communications Director for New Approach Missouri, she came back to serve as the spokeswoman for the No on Prop A campaign that defeated right-to-work in August.

It’s only fitting that Schrimpf’s support of Amendment 2 was rooted in her policy upbringing, education, and experience.

“It is good public policy,” Schrimpf said of medical marijuna. “Sometimes, in politics, that isn’t always the case – you don’t always get everything you want or a policy falls short of where you want it to be. Our country has a complex, but mostly harmful and destructive history when it comes to drug policy, so it is a rewarding experience to be on the right side of trying to reform our drug laws.”

Schrimpf says Amendment 2 sets Missouri up to have a robust but well-regulated industry, that protects patients and doctors, generates economic activity, creates jobs, and puts new money into state veterans programs.

“I think the really remarkable and fascinating thing about cannabis-reform is how far it has come and how the issue has managed to break out of these very niche circles of advocacy into mainstream public policy debate,” Schrimpf said. “These are conversations I never dreamed we could be having a decade ago, and certainly not in Missouri. It just shows how far the public can move on an issue with the right information and strategy.”


Coincidentally enough, Schrimpf found out 3 weeks before Election Day, where Amendment 2 was on the ballot, that she was pregnant. Schrimpf observed how vital women, especially moms, were instrumental in the passage of Amendment 2 during the campaign.

“To me, it is important because they played such a critical role in helping get Amendment 2 passed,” Schrimpf said. “Our most passionate, personable and articulate advocates were actually mothers of young patients, suffering from very serious, chronic illnesses. These moms are truly remarkable. It is difficult enough to balance the needs of your family, do everything moms take on in a conventional household, and take on caring for a special or high-needs child, and then on top of that become an advocate for medical marijuana, volunteer on the campaign, and deal with the stigma that can be associated with advocating for medical marijuana, even though it is proven, effective medical relief for your child. Moms really made a compelling case for medical marijuana, and I think their voices resonated with folks you wouldn’t have expected to support our cause.”

Schrimpf said, in general, the industry is well-positioned for women to have a huge impact. “An emerging and high-growth industry requires keen attention to detail and the ability to pivot quickly and manage change. I think those are traits that come naturally to women and will help them excel, and I think we are already seeing that.”

Continuing to see policy through after a campaign may be rare at times, but Schrimpf’s motivation lies in true passion.

“Well, I am one of the few, brazen individuals ready to admit I really do love politics. I have really enjoyed working on this issue. Something that has stuck with me for a few years now is something one of my professors said on my first day of graduate school, that public policy is essentially ‘who gets what, how much and why.’ Politics is at its best when people feel like the system is working for them. And that is kind of the problem we see the most today is that so often ordinary people feel that isn’t the case on so many issues, and the blame falls equally on both parties. From jobs and the economy to healthcare, regardless of political affiliation, you hear over and over again, ‘the system doesn’t work for me, no one is looking out for me.’

“Then obviously the holy grail of policymaking is when we can collectively work together to make the system work for people. So it feels really good to be a part of something where I feel like we are doing good, people are looking around and saying this is making things better, this is improving their lives. That makes the work meaningful and hopefully helps me grow and learn for the future.”

Beyond passion, Schrimpf has a rare skill set in communications noted by journalism industry professionals as being efficient, detail-oriented, and comprehensive.

“Social media was instrumental to our Amendment 2 campaign strategy,” Schrimpf said. “Social has the power of spreading things in just a few clicks that other traditional media platforms just don’t have. I think it has also been a favored tool by activists for many years, so it benefited our communications goals and strategy from the beginning. One of our challenges was educating voters on the different medical marijuana questions. We knew that we needed some Missourians to be voting ‘no’ on Amendment 3 and Proposition C. Social media was the best way to differentiate the campaigns, answer questions and build our base support. In addition, many traditional forms of paid media that are usually good persuasion tools during a campaign were too expensive and so we relied solely on digital ads and expanding their reach through social platforms, which ultimately paid off.”

The implementation of Amendment 2, now Article XIV, continues, Schrimpf and Tightline Strategies continues to be a voice for the policy and MoCannTrade. Though Schrimpf might be out of pocket for a little bit for the birth of her first child early this summer, there is no doubt that she’ll be back, leading the industry’s proactive messaging.