Denise Lynn Nappier

Denise Lynn Nappier
"I am mindful that, as a woman, everything I do in office can and should increase acceptance of women as leaders, as contributors to our society, and inspire our young women and girls to be the best that they can be, to truly climb as high as their talents, their energy, and their dedication can take them."
- Denise L. Nappier

Induction Category:
Politics, Government & Law

Born: 1951

Inducted: 2011

Town: Hartford

The Honorable Denise Lynn Nappier is a woman of firsts: the first woman elected State Treasurer in Connecticut history, the first African American woman elected State Treasurer in the United States, and the first African American woman elected to any statewide office in Connecticut. As the state’s 82nd Treasurer, Nappier oversees more than $50 billion in state assets, and her innovative and effective leadership has saved Connecticut taxpayers and businesses billions of dollars in the management of the state’s finances. She has also advocated for better corporate governance, work that has resonated throughout the state and the nation. Treasurer Nappier is also known for her commitment to financial literacy education and to making college more affordable for Connecticut students.

Denise Lynn Nappier was born June 16, 1951 in Hartford, Conn., the middle member of the first set of triplets born in the city’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Though varsity sports were not offered for girls in the Hartford Public Schools of the 1960s, the Nappier sisters insisted on competing and found an ally in their physical education teacher, Joella Marshall, whom Denise credits with exposing them to different sports and encouraging them to pursue their talents. All three sisters excelled in gymnastics, track, golf, and cheerleading. Denise Nappier was a natural leader and her drive to make a difference in her community was evident even in her school years. She organized and led a protest for “Culottes Day,” against the school’s dress code and also became a “Dempsey Girl,” joining John Dempsey’s gubernatorial campaign and helping him be re-elected governor in the late 1960s.

After graduating from high school, Nappier went on to earn a B.A. from Virginia State University and a Masters degree in City Planning from the University of Cincinnati. She then returned to Hartford where she took a job as an analyst in the City Manager’s office and consultant with the State Office of Policy and Management. She later served as Executive Director of Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring Hartford and East Hartford’s access to the Connecticut River and ensuring the public could take advantage of the river’s recreational opportunities.

Nappier was never far from politics, however, remaining a staunch Democrat and even serving as state party co-chair. She first ran for elected office in 1989 for the post of City Treasurer of Hartford. As City Treasurer, Nappier oversaw the Municipal Employees Retirement Fund with assets in access of $950 million. During her 10 years as City Treasurer, she was known as a prudent, conservative investor who grew the fund through innovative and scrupulous management. In 1998, Nappier turned her attention to statewide office and ran for State Treasurer. Her campaign began with little money and no organization, and many believed she would fail. The primary race was tight, with Nappier running against a former mayor and one of her own former supporters. Her campaign pulled out all the stops and her competitive spirit kicked in. This, along with an endorsement from Barbara Kennelly, a gubernatorial candidate in the 1998 election and former Congressional representative, made the difference and Denise Nappier made history.

Winning the election was only the beginning, however, as Treasurer Nappier took over an office that had been racked by a stream of turnovers and corruption. Her predecessor, Paul J. Silvester, had pled guilty to kickbacks and bribes while in office, and it was an uphill battle to improve public confidence in the Office of the State Treasurer. Nappier began by making a policy against investments that included a finder’s fee and continued to institute policies and procedures that ensured integrity, accountability, and transparency. She proposed and helped enact the Treasury Reform Act and changed the way Connecticut does business. Under her guidance, the state’s pension fund reached record levels as did the Short-Term Investment Fund. Her Connecticut Board Diversity Initiative and corporate governance projects have encouraged Connecticut companies and companies all over the nation to improve their diversity and Board accountability. In 2005, she co-chaired a UN summit of U.S. and European institutional investors to find ways to encourage corporations to strategically explore the financial risks and opportunities associated with global climate change.

Nappier has also made improving access to higher education a priority by expanding the Connecticut Higher Education Trust (CHET) program and lowering its fees, helping thousands of families save more money for their children’s college educations. She is also passionate about financial literacy and ensuring that children learn the benefits of saving and the basics of credit from an early age. Treasurer Nappier often visits schools to bring this message and has initiated several statewide programs to help foster what she sees as critical life skills.

Treasurer Nappier has received numerous honorary degrees and innumerable awards. Treasury and Risk Management magazine named her one of the nation’s “100 Most Influential People in Financ” in both 2006 and 2010. She has also received the Pacesetter Award from the National Association of Investment Companies and the Good Housekeeping Award for Women in Government in recognition of her high standards of integrity and ethics. In addition, Nappier has been honored by the Girl Scouts of Connecticut, the National Association of Minority & Women Law Firms, the Hartford College for Women, the National Federation of Democratic Women, the National Political Congress of Black Women, and the Government Finance Officers Association.

Now in her fourth term of office, The Honorable Denise Lynn Nappier continues to use her skills, talents, and drive for excellence to improve the state’s financial position, educate the public about financial literacy, and improve the corporate investment climate in Connecticut and around the nation.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice