June 7, 2013 – Gloria Mackenzie, the winner of the record $590.5 million Powerball jackpot, has lived in tiny Zephyrhills, Fl. for about ten years, but the small town she came from is hoping she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
Eric Russell, a reporter from Maine’s Portland Press Herald, visited East Millinocket, Maine to see how residents in that tiny town – less than 2,000 people live there – felt about one of their own hitting the biggest jackpot ever.
Russell discovered that residents in East Millinocket are mostly hoping Mackenzie will put some of her winnings towards a much-needed new roof for the Schenk High School in town, where her daughter Melinda is a teacher.
Mackenzie’s son Larry also lives in the small Maine town. He worked in the paper mill there and served on the town’s board of elected officials – selectmen.
Though a new roof for the high school is high on the town’s wishlist, Russell saw a struggling town dependent on its recently re-opened paper mill.
The Great Northern Paper Co. closed the mill in 2010 after staff reductions, and it was sold to Cate Street Capital, who re-opened it. But townspeople told Russell they didn’t expect it to stay open forever.
Despite economic troubles, the residents of East Millinocket didn’t seem to be waiting for anything from Mackenzie.
Katie Crandall-Liba, who was part of a group that won an $8.2 million jackpot in 1999, told Russell that even though Mackenzie “won a lot more than that…she doesn’t have to share.”
Crandall-Liba and the group from her family’s Crandall Hardware store each took away about $500,000 from their win, a huge sum in a town with a median income of just over $30,000.
While Mackenzie’s lump sum of $371 million before taxes makes the $8.2 million the group won look modest, the residents of East Millinocket aren’t looking to cash in on Mackenzie’s windfall.
“It’s great for her,” Crandall-Liba told Russell. “I hope she makes a point of spending some on herself.”