Secretary Merrill understands that Connecticut cannot create the jobs of the future if we don’t first lend a hand to the existing small businesses that employ today's workers. As Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill is committed to playing a vital role in helping small businesses grow, prosper, expand, and create jobs, thereby reviving Connecticut’s economy. Secretary Merrill successfully helped enact and implement new online business filing requirements to save businesses time with document processing. During Secretary Merrill’s tenure, the office of the Secretary of the State has partnered with numerous state, federal and private sector agencies to offer programs to help small business succeed. This includes unprecedented outreach with U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center in Middletown to educate businesses on the details necessary for expanding sales of their products or services to overseas markets.
Prior to her election as Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill served as State Representative from the 54th General Assembly district for 17 years, representing the towns of Mansfield and Chaplin. First elected to the General Assembly in 1994, Denise Merrill rose to the rank of House Majority leader from 2008-2010She also served as the House chair of the budget writing Appropriations Committee from 2005-2008, and as Vice Chair of the committees on Education from 1994-98 and Government Administration and Elections from 1994-96In 2009, Denise Merrill was named by her colleagues in the legislature as "Most Respected by the Other Side of the Aisle" and "Most Effective Legislator" in a poll done by Connecticut Magazine.
Denise Merrill’s election as Secretary of the State completes a cycle of commitment to civic participation, accountability and transparency in government that motivated her to pursue a career in public service more than 25 years ago. As a former teacher, she formed a consortium housed at the Secretary of State’s office in 1984 to increase law-related education, writing curriculum on constitutional issues for young adults and on Connecticut’s constitutional history.
Throughout her career she has supported efforts to increase voter participation, sustain a fair and open government, and advocate for legislation designed to curb the influence of special interests in our electoral system. She has also been a leading voice on education, including civic education in our schools. Secretary Merrill previously worked at the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut as the Director of its Training Academy and consulted with the Department of Education to develop civic and law education programs for students. Denise Merrill was also the Co-President of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, a non-partisan organization that coaches women from all over the world who are interested in pursuing elected office.
During her tenure in the Legislature, Secretary Merrill is most widely known for spearheading the successful effort to fund infrastructure improvements at the University of Connecticut known as "UConn 2000." These improvements have been widely credited with helping advance the University to national prominence as a premiere academic and research institution. Secretary Merrill also sponsored numerous bills that later became law encouraging economic growth by developing a strategic plan to create high technology clusters in Connecticut, as well as incentivizing state investments in biotech and high-end manufacturing. As a leader in the House, Denise Merrill also helped pass numerous bills that enacted campaign finance reform, ethics reform, early childhood education, civics education, and requirements for technology in the Connecticut public school system.
Secretary Merrill is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is licensed to practice law in the state of California, and is a classically trained pianist. She lives in Hartford. Her family includes daughter Nicole, son-in-law Brett Van Zandt, son Alex and daughter in-law Alexa, and son Nate. She has three grandchildren. In her free time she enjoys gardening, hiking, skiing, tennis, playing piano, and spending time with her grandchildren.