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Updated: October 2, 2023 / 2023 NextUp: 40 Under 40 Honorees

40 Under 40: Denise Cilley is expanding the economic horizon in Downeast Maine

PHOTO / SOUBAHN PHANTHAY Denise Cilley, a leader at the Sunrise County Economic Council, is passionate about engaging younger generations in town government.
Denise Cilley, 39 
Associate director, Sunrise County Economic Council Find profiles of all the 40 Under 40 honorees here.
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Significant professional accomplishment: Over the past 2 ½ years, I’ve been directly involved in securing more than $2.1 million in grant, campaign and sponsorship funding to support business and industry education programs involving more than 50 incredible partners and reaching more than 350 individual learners and 170 businesses. The work has also included the construction and launch of MaineStreet Business Building, Washington County’s first coworking and small business support and networking hub.

Passion project: A concept I am passionate about and actively pursuing is engaging younger generations in town government decision-making. We need young people on our committees and their voices heard at town meetings. This begins with sharing how decisions are made in our communities and inviting participation.

Audacious goal: To challenge policies, processes and norms that generate destructive holding patterns in rural communities. I realize the best chance of acting toward my goal is by continuously following three critical steps to learning: Listen, ask questions, listen.

Favorite quote: My favorite quote is one that I wrote recently. It speaks to my intent at this stage in my life — to not accept “because that’s the way it has always been” as the concluding statement of any discussion. “Show me what’s possible and I’ll ask, ‘What’s next?’ Tell me what’s impossible and I’ll ask, ‘Why not?’ Explain to me why it’s impossible and I’ll ask, ‘What’s next?’”

Influential book: I read “Free: From Legalism to Grace,” by Jennifer Brewer, last year and found it influential in the ways of validation and liberation.

Favorite TV shows or movies: I enjoy genres from true crime to sci-fi, but two shows that I always go back to are “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and “The Golden Girls.” When it comes to movies, the “Jurassic Park” and “Lord of the Rings” series are among my top favorites.

How do you recharge: Spending time outside with family and friends, doing anything but most definitely laughing.

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Ben Sturtevant
November 29, 2023

Awesome! Congrats, Denise!

October 3, 2023

Congratulations, Denise!!

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