For Denise Tepler resilience has triumphed over regret. Emerge Maine’s new Board President ran twice to represent her Topsham district in the State House and lost in 2008 and 2010 to the Republican incumbent.
“The losses were very hard to accept but the support I received from my fellow Emerge alums helped me recover, “ She says. “In fact the incredible women I’ve met through Emerge have made me become even more dedicated to helping find and train the future leaders of our state.”
Denise’s involvement in her community and politics began some years after she had moved to Maine with her husband for a job he took in the State Attorney General’s office. With three kids in the Topsham public schools she ran and was elected to the local school board and served two three-year terms.
“I loved the experience but it took someone telling me that I’d be good at it to get me to run,” she explains.
After the school board Denise studied at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine and decided that running for office was the best way she could further her commitment to equality of “making schooling better for everyone and giving all children the ability for self-invention”.
That led to Denise becoming a member of the second Emerge Maine class in 2008 and the realization that her having someone to encourage her to run for the school board years before was exactly the push other women needed to take that first step to seek public office.
“Men are more confident about just doing it,” she says. “Women want to know first how to do it and that’s what we provide at Emerge. We aren’t an ‘old boys’ network. What we’ve created is a ‘new girls’ network and it’s growing.”
Before being elected Board President of Emerge Maine this summer, Tepler also served as the Sagadahoc County Democratic Party Chair.