A Conversation with Representative Emilie Kornheiser

  • May 22, 2020
  • Lindsay Williams

Emilie Kornheiser serves in the Vermont Legislature as a State Representative for Brattleboro in Windham County. She is also a graduate of the Emerge Vermont class of 2018. Emilie has called Vermont home since she left New York to attend Marlboro College more than 20 years ago. Her career took her in and out of the state many times, but she was always drawn back to Vermont for its strong sense of community and connection. Since her introduction to the political sphere, she’s had a culmination of jobs ranging from international economic development to local social services work, but has always kept her focus on the intersection of people within systems and how systems affect people in a way that informs decision making for communities. 

Through her work, she recognized the need for certain opportunities that weren’t available and took it upon herself to correct that by running for the legislature. Bringing the needs of everyone to the table was the main driving force behind her decision to run. In 2018, Emilie ran against a Democratic incumbent candidate and ultimately won her race for State Representative. She takes extreme pride in the team that supported her along the campaign trail which consisted of Emerge alums and “kick-ass” community volunteers. Her campaign team integrated a number of new voices and people into the community leadership sphere—a fact that she is very proud of. “I was able to build a really dynamic community within my campaign team that allowed us to get our message out in a way that resonated with folks,” she said. Ensuring that the voices of the people in her community are represented is always at the core of the work she does. She has a deep understanding for the social and economic diversities within her community, allowing her to enact informed and inclusive decision making. 

In her current role, Emilie serves on the Ways to Means committee which considers matters of revenue related to the state. Through this work and also considering the importance of infrastructure, education, and economic development, Emilie follows the principle of “prosperity begets prosperity.” Simply put, she’s interested in an economy that works. This entails building an economy that gives people the adequate time, space and resources to participate in a democracy that will in turn provide services to foster equitable and thriving livelihoods. 

Looking towards the future, I asked Emilie what goals she has for herself in her career. “I want to continue to elevate and make spaces for voices that don’t always feel like they have a right to be at the table,” she said. Growing up, Emilie always felt that she had a right to speak up for what she believed in, and she employs that same strong voice “to make sure that other people’s perspectives get in the room.” Being a representative means taking into account the needs of everyone in the community, and Emilie uses her platform to continue to have “dynamic and systemic conversations about the economy and what matters to Vermonters.” 

From the start of our conversation, I could tell that Emilie is the type of person who puts her whole heart into the work she does. When she saw the need for different voices to be heard in her community, she took it upon herself to be that voice. I asked Emilie what advice she might give to women who want to get involved in their community or state, but don’t know where to start. Her response: “Figure out what you actually enjoy doing with your time rather than what you just think of yourself as good at.” This sounds simple enough, but it really makes the difference when it comes to finding a fulfilling and passionate role in the community. The beautiful thing about women is that each of us has a uniquely diverse skill set. Harnessing those skills and passions into community work is the first step towards finding your voice. Emilie credits some of the skills she used along the campaign trail to her Emerge training, saying, “When I left Emerge, I had this toolkit of steps and resources that gave me the template I needed to craft my own path.” That path led her to a seat in the Vermont Legislature where she will continue to amplify the needs of her community. Being a voice for the voiceless and an advocate for others might have gotten her into the political sphere, but it’s her determination, passion, and dedication to her work that will keep her there. 

To learn more about Representative Emilie Kornheiser, click here.

Emerge has one goal: To increase the number of Democratic women in office who are reflective of the incredible diversity of the Democratic party by recruiting, training and providing a powerful network.