What was her experience with Emerge Vermont?
Leslie Goldman was excited at the prospect of joining the Emerge Vermont class of 2020. She completed the signature program application in 2019 which forced her to think about herself and her role in the political sphere in a way she hadn’t thought about before. After being accepted to the program however, Leslie broke her leg badly and had to withdraw from the program. She was disappointed, but did not let it stop her from running for office in 2020. After deciding to run in March of 2020 for State Representative for Windham-3, Leslie revisited the Emerge Program and enrolled in week-long Candidate Bootcamp in June of 2020.
“I found the Emerge program to be so thoughtful. It gave me incredible things to think about and it gave me the whole infrastructure to be able to see the campaign trail through,” Leslie said.
Even though her bootcamp was the first session to be held virtually, Leslie still found immense value in the training days, and the office hours gave her a space to connect with her classmates. Emerge provided her with a network of people who were going through the same experiences, but each woman also had their own perspective based on where they lived in the state—an aspect of the program that she found invaluable. Even in a virtual setting, there was still a bond that she had with her class that made it possible to be open and honest about their experiences. Leslie admits that, “there were all of these different opportunities to work through concerns, ideas, problems, anxieties, to support each other, and to just be held up.”
What was the campaign trail like for Leslie?
Although this year was Leslie’s first time running for State Representative, she’s had some experience in the past with campaigning. In 1991, Leslie ran for Windham School board and won her race. She went door to door to canvas and meet her supporters. She admits that being able to engage with the community in that close setting allowed her to see how people lived, which in turn gave her a little more empathy and understanding for her community. The campaign trail back then looked a lot different than in 2020, and this year Leslie’s main point of communication with voters was through phone calls. “I found it doable,” she said regarding the campaign trail during Covid. Even though she couldn’t meet people face to face or attend events, the phone calls resonated with a lot of supporters and her efforts were very much appreciated during that isolating time. After a long and hard-fought campaign season, Leslie won her seat as State Representative for Windham-3 against two incumbent running mates, officially joining the Legislature this past week for the first House session.
How was her first day in session?
January 6th, 2021 was the first day of session, and Leslie was ready and excited to start serving her community. The day started with introducing all of the State Representatives and having them present themselves by saying “I am here.” At first, Leslie did not think much of this short statement, but an email from a colleague after the day was over made her realize that their brief introduction was a way of saying that they were present and ready to serve. “The saying, ‘I am here’ was really saying, ‘I am here and ready to stand up for our community, our constituents, and our state’,” Leslie said. That struck a chord, and she was equally empowered by reading the affirmation to serve as a State Representative. “It’s about really understanding the commitment to the constitution of Vermont and of the United States….everything that is going on in Washington just goes to show how important it is to be respectful of the oath that we’ve taken and to honor it all the time—it’s not an option.”
Is there a particular area that her work focuses on?
The bulk of Leslie’s professional career was in health care. After growing up in Manhattan and going to nursing school in New York, Leslie went to Virginia to pursue her Nurse Practitioner degree and her Master’s degree. In 1982, Leslie and her husband made the move to Vermont where they started a primary care practice in Bellows Falls. Leslie retired from her job as a family nurse practitioner in 2018, but her new career in the Legislature has some common ground with her healthcare background.
When asked how she made the transition from healthcare to politics, Leslie said it was a very natural progression. She noted that, “[policy] affects people’s lives in a positive way….you can set the stage for an infrastructure that will make things work better.” Policy and healthcare overlap in more ways than one, and even during her time as a nurse practitioner Leslie was committed to improving the infrastructure in her own community. When her son was young, there were some things at the high school in their town that she was concerned about. Rather than hoping that others would make a change, she got involved. “I decided I had a choice. I could complain or I could participate, so I decided to participate,” she said. Leslie served on the School Board for 12 years and then pivoted to serve on the Select Board for three years. She’s taking that same drive into the State House as she begins to serve her community and state on a larger scale. “Going into the Legislature now allows me to think about policy and how it is having an effect on a bigger population,” she said. With her expertise in healthcare and a passion for standing up for issues that she believes in, Leslie is thrilled to have been assigned to the HealthCare Committee in the Legislature.
What advice would Leslie give to women who want to get involved in their state or community, but don’t know where to start?
Leslie’s advice to women who are interested in getting involved is short, sweet, and a candid reminder that being an active member of the community is not something that should be daunting. “Start small and run for something. Serve on a board….it could be any place where you can find your voice and learn about your community and be part of it,” she said. Taking that first leap into joining a committee or running for a board is a great place to start, even if it means you don’t get it right the first time. Leslie advised, “I think it’s also important to not give up….sometimes it may take more than one election to get where you want to go.” Leslie truly followed her own advice when she made a transition from healthcare to politics, and she sets the stage for women everywhere for what is possible when you make the choice to participate and lean into the opportunities that give you a chance to share your voice.
Read more about Leslie 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.