By Lou Mancinelli

Mary Louise Butler, a registered dental hygienist for 25 years and then a real estate agent for the past 11 years (center), was inaugurated as president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR) on Feb. 3. Butler is seen here with her colleagues from the Chestnut Hill office of Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, from left, Larry DiFranco, Louise D'Alessandro, Paul Walsh and Bob Elfant. All four are partners in the firm, and Mary Louise Butler is an associate broker. (Photo by Marc Barag)

The highly regarded Elfant Wissahickon Realtors moved from Roxborough to 8039 Germantown Ave. in November, and just last month the firm became home to the 86th president of the Greater Philadelphia Association of Realtors (GPAR).

Mary Louise Butler was inaugurated as president Feb. 3 at a dinner hosted at the Germantown Cricket Club. After 25 years of working as a registered dental hygienist, Butler phased out her duties cleaning teeth, among other dental work, and traded it for responsibilities upgrading technology systems at a real estate office. At the turn of the century, she herself became a real estate agent and in 11 years, she has risen to a distinguished position in the Philadelphia real estate community.

Butler, 56, graduated from the dental hygienic school at Temple University. Over the years, she took drawing, sculpture and other classes at various locations that were in tune with her hobbies and interests. In 1999, she completed a real estate course. In turn, a professor from Delaware County Community College where she had taken the course called her and asked Butler if she’d be interested in working for a real estate agent who needed help setting up the agency’s computer and internet systemAnd so Butler’s introduction to the world of real estate came through her experience transferring an office’s computer system from the older MS-DOS format to the modern Windows system.

“When I started working for an agent, it was my first experience in a kind of corporate setting,” said Butler. “I saw the interaction and thought I could do this … I just got the sense that I would really like working in that environment. One thing led to another, and I decided to phase out of [being a] dental hygienist and into the real estate market.”

When she earned her real estate license and was looking to join a firm, Butler remembered how much she enjoyed her experience with Elfant Wissahickon as a first-time homebuyer and mother, so she decided to apply to the firm and has worked with them since 2000. Since then, she has expanded her knowledge of the real estate industry by continuing to take classes and receive industry specific distinctions and licenses.

Her route to GPAR president began in 2004, when she became chairwoman of the association’s grievance committee. After participating in numerous board meetings, Butler was asked to become a line officer. A line officer ascends to the role of president through the organization’s ranks, in this case, starting at the secretary level, and serving as treasurer, vice-president and president-elect before serving as president.

Butler will serve a number of functions as president of GPAR including serving the public through educational visits to Philadelphia real estate offices as well as appearances at forums like City Council meetings.

“Three of my goals for this year as president are to support realtor friendly/homeowner friendly candidates in primary elections, to facilitate commercial real estate firms’ participation in the Landlord Co-Operative Program with PGW and to construct a strategic plan for the Association, similar to the plan that was instituted by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors at their January meeting,” she said.

“Mary Louise just realized very early in her career the value of education, service to her profession and being part of GPAR,” said Paul Walsh, broker of records and managing partner at Elfant Wissahickon. “It’s been the hallmark of her career and allowed her to grow.”

“Part of the reason I like this business is because of the uniqueness of each buyer and seller,” said Butler. “The uniqueness of people keeps me in the business.”

According to Butler, one of the main reasons people look for real estate in Chestnut Hill and Northwest Philadelphia is because of the beautiful varied housing stock and green space.

“There are a million reasons why it’s more satisfying for me to be a realtor than a dental hygienist at this stage of my life,” said the Swarthmore resident, who has five brothers and sisters and was raised in the Northeast section of the city. “I’m an independent contractor, and I rise and fall on my own. It’s a real good feeling when I succeed. And I work with people and professionals I respect and admire.”

For more information about Mary Louise Butler, visit her website at or email For more information about Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, visit