Paul Burns, Executive Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 12
Paul Burns is VPIRG’s executive director, a position he’s held since 2001. VPIRG is Vermont’s largest nonprofit, consumer and environmental advocacy organization. In just the past two years, VPIRG has played a major role in several landmark achievements including the nation’s first ban on fracking, tough new regulations on toxics, and the precedent-setting requirement that GMO foods be labeled. Paul’s leadership was integral to the success of those campaigns. Previously, he worked for 15 years as an attorney, advocate and organizer for PIRGs in New York and Massachusetts. He earned his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, and his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law.
Ben Walsh, Clean Energy Advocate
(802) 223-5221 ext. 23
Since 2012, Ben has run VPIRG’s energy program, leading campaigns to expand Vermont’s precedent setting CLEAN Contracts and net metering programs. At VPIRG, Ben works to research, identify and advance clean energy policy solutions. Prior to taking the reins of VPIRG’s energy program, Ben was VPIRG’s Field Director, engaging and mobilizing thousands of Vermonters in support of VPIRG’s campaigns. He learned the organizing trade in Green Corps, working with National Environmental Trust, Environment America and the Oregon Natural Desert Association, and later serving as Green Corps’ recruitment director. Ben holds a BS in Environmental Studies and BA in Political Science from UVM.
Cassandra Wills, Office Manager
(802) 223-5221 ext. 11
Cassandra Wills is the Office Manager for VPIRG. After interning with VPIRG for over six months, playing a key support role on field, development and administrative projects, Cassie joined the team full-time as office manager. In this role, she handles day to day administrative and bookkeeping tasks, and contributes regularly to membership and field projects. Cassie has returned to her home state after living in California for 14 years. While living on the west coast she attended Long Beach College where she focused on psychological studies. While residing there, she served as President and Chairperson of Steinbeck Elementary School in Salinas, CA. She also has had several years of managerial experience before taking time off to have a family. She now resides in Central Vermont with her two children and serves as the Vice President of the Parent Teacher Association of Calais Elementary School in her free time.
Colleen F. Halley, Associate Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 13
Colleen Halley is VPIRG’s Associate Director. Colleen has worked as a senior non-profit manager since the early 1990s in Vermont and overseas. For ten years she served as the Director of Development for Project Harmony, where she designed and supported international community-based development programs, securing over $45 million in funding for these programs. Colleen’s experience in local grassroots organizing and issue-based advocacy is rooted in her 20 years of volunteer leadership with Amnesty International. A committed animal rescue advocate, she spent five years on the Board of the Central Vermont Humane Society during the group’s pivotal reorganization. Colleen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Writing and History from Loyola College and a Master of Arts in International Studies from the University of Washington. At VPIRG, Colleen manages day-to-day operations and provides leadership in areas of financial management, organizational development, fundraising and technology integration, as well as staff recruitment and training.
Dylan Zwicky, Clean Energy Associate
(802) 223-5221 ext. 22
Dylan is in the second year of a two-year fellowship with VPIRG serving as Clean Energy Associate. In this role he is responsible for much of VPIRG’s legislative and regulatory advocacy on clean energy. During the 2014 legislative session, Dylan played a key role in the State House researching renewable energy policy and educating legislators, watchdogging committee hearings, and organizing citizens to take action on energy. He joined the Montpelier staff after six consecutive summers working on VPIRG’s canvass, where he was part of the leadership team for four years and served as Canvass Director in 2014. Dylan grew up in Ripton, where he enjoyed spending time outdoors skiing, sledding, and hiking in the Green Mountains. In 2010 he spent five months in Vietnam, teaching English at a local school. Dylan received his BA from Mt. Allison University in New Brunswick, where he studied Political Science and Economics.
Eliza Walp, Field Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext. 16
Eliza is a Field Organizer for VPIRG taking part in a two-year Fellowship program. Before starting her fellowship, Eliza served for two years as a Field Manager with VPIRG’s summer door canvass. She hails from the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York where she grew up on a five acre family farm. She retains an avid interest in sustainable agriculture, forestry, and wildlife that is reflected in her work for VPIRG. Eliza graduated from The University of Vermont with a BA in both English and Film and Television Studies. In her role as Field Organizer, Eliza helps facilitate the GMO Right to Know Coalition, mobilizes grassroots support for VPIRG campaigns, and serves as Assistant Director of the summer canvass office.
Falko Schilling, Esq. Consumer Protection Advocate
(802) 223-5221 ext. 26
Falko is VPIRG’s Consumer Protection Advocate. A native of Vermont, Falko received his law degree from Vermont Law School, and comes to this position after joining VPIRG as a Bridge the Gap Fellow in 2011. During his time in law school he worked with a number of organizations involved in legislative advocacy and grassroots organizing in Vermont. His work has focused on a broad range of issues from agriculture to health care reform. While in law school he worked in the Vermont State House doing advocacy as an intern with the firm Sirotkin and Necrason in 2010, and as non-partisan staff as an intern in the Office of Legislative Council in 2011. Falko also holds a BA from Skidmore College where he double majored in Government and Theater.
Jeff Frew, Data Manager
(802) 223-5221 ext. 27
Jeff is VPIRG’s Data Manager. Originally from Le Roy, New York – the birthplace of Jell-O – Jeff showed an interest in politics and advocacy as a teenager, interning with the Genesee County Legislature while in high school, and getting involved in his high school student government. After attending The College of William & Mary, he continued his work as an organizer, working on campaigns in his native Western New York, Long Island, and even Vermont, where he organized for the Vermont Coordinated Campaign in 2010. Jeff comes to VPIRG off of the successful re-election of Representative Tim Bishop, where he served as the campaign Data Director. When not crunching numbers or maintaining data systems, Jeff enjoys reading, cooking, and exploring the natural beauty of the Green Mountain State.
Julia Michel, Campaign Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 ext. 21
As VPIRG’s Campaign Coordinator, Julia works closely with VPIRG’s Executive Director, advocates and field staff to help drive communication with our members and the general public on our issues. Her quick wit makes her right at home as manager of VPIRG’s Facebook page. Julia also serves as lead coordinator on our Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline and Heat Clean campaigns, oversees VPIRG’s UVM campus organizing and contributes to the research, message development and communications of our Energy Independent Vermont campaign. For two years, Julia was VPIRG’s Membership Coordinator, a position she came to after interning for the Vermont Speaker of the House, and blogging on the 2008 gubernatorial race for Vermont Public Television. She graduated from UVM in 2011 with Honors in Political Science and Community Development & Applied Economics.
Kati Gallagher, Campus Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext.28
Kati Gallagher is VPIRG’s Campus Organizer. Kati earned her BA in Sociology and Global Studies from the University of Vermont in May 2013. Before joining VPIRG’s full-time staff, Kati interned for VPIRG’s Health Care and GMO Labeling campaigns, assisting with event organization, citizen outreach, research and strategic planning. As a student, she interned at a non-profit dedicated to rehabilitating street children during a 4-month stay in Senegal, and worked as a teacher’s assistant in the sociology department. Kati is responsible for managing our college interns, and provides regular trainings and support for students at UVM interested in VPIRG’s campaigns.
Laura Seeman, Membership Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 ext. 14
Laura is VPIRG’s Membership Coordinator. Before joining the year-round staff, Laura served as a VPIRG canvasser and team leader in 2012. Prior to this, she interned in a Costa Rican public school, where she developed an eight-week environmental education program about the environmental benefits of eating local and sustainable foods. As part of VPIRG’s summer outreach program, she engaged members and citizens across the state and mobilized support for expanding clean energy. She loved VPIRG members so much that she’s now focused on working with them full-time in her role providing front line customer service for VPIRG members on everything from information requests to questions about our campaigns. Laura coordinates VPIRG’s efforts to forge lasting relationships with its members through effective communication and engagement of its members, and contributes to VPIRG’s development efforts. Laura graduated in May 2013 from the University of Vermont with a BS in Psychology.
Liz Edsell, Field Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 15
Liz Edsell is VPIRG’s Field Director. Liz has over a decade of experience in grassroots organizing and environmental advocacy. Previously, as Associate Director of The Conservation Campaign and advocacy affiliate of The Trust for Public Land, Liz helped to create more than $20 billion in public funding to protect land and water via ballot and legislative campaigns. As an organizer with Green Corps, Liz mobilized volunteers and partners in campaigns working to promote clean energy, stop rollbacks to the Clean Air Act and much more. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002 with honors in Environmental Studies. As Field Director, Liz directs field operations for all VPIRG campaigns and is responsible for engaging members and citizens across Vermont in our efforts to protect the public interest and make our state the best place to live and work.
Taylor Johnson, Field Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext. 17
Taylor is a field organizer for VPIRG. Taylor has spent four summers as a part of the summer outreach program – most recently as the canvass director. Taylor completed the 2-year Fellows Program with VPIRG, during which he worked as a field organizer and directed VPIRG’s summer canvass to all-time record-breaking success. With VPIRG he has organized to close Vermont Yankee, expand clean energy and update the bottle bill. He also worked with Toxics Action Center on chemical reform and the Vermont League of Conservation Voters on their Vote Green Gov campaign. Taylor graduated from the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in history. His family lives in Rochester, VT.
Walter Gustafson, Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext. 30
Walter is VPIRG’s Field Organizer. A native Vermonter raised in Addison County, Walter began his career as a VPIRG canvasser in 2010 and 2011, after which he was hired to lead a citizen outreach campaign with Environment California where his office succeeded in banning plastic bags in Santa Cruz, CA. Walter returned to Vermont in early 2014, when he was awarded a New Organizing Institute Climate Fellowship working with VPIRG’s Campaign to Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline. He returned to VPIRG’s canvass operation as an assistant director in 2014 and was then invited to join VPIRG’s 2-year Fellows Program. As a Field Organizing Fellow, Walter is responsible for organizing citizens to take climate action and building the grassroots support needed to pass the carbon pollution tax. During the summer, Walter will be directing VPIRG’s canvass office.