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, Climate & Energy Program Director
(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.
Carrie Youngblood, Office Manager
carrie_youngblood(802) 223-5221 ext. 11
Carrie is VPIRG’s Office Manager. She has been involved in socially-responsible and non-profit organizations since moving to Vermont in the late 1980s. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in Economics, she has served as office manager for Food Works at Two Rivers Center and the old Solar Works (now Real Goods Solar), and as bookkeeper for the Turtle Island Children’s Center and Heaton Woods Assisted Living Facility in Montpelier, along with bookkeeper and virtual office manager for the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts. She is active with Bethany Church in Montpelier, having served as president twice, and was elected Moderator of the Vermont Conference of the United Church of Christ. Carrie also follows her interests in the arts by serving as Treasurer of the Vermont Philharmonic orchestra since 2011 and singing soprano in the Vermont Philharmonic Chorus.
Christina Forniciari, Field Organizer
christina_forniciari(802) 223-5221 ext. 13
Christina is a VPIRG Field Organizer working to take action on climate change and garner the grassroots support to pass a carbon pollution tax in the state. She began her work with VPIRG in 2013 as a canvasser for the GMO labeling campaign, and was also an intern for the Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline campaign as a student organizer on UVM’s campus. This past summer, Christina was an Assistant Director for the canvass office, leading a team of 70 young people going door-to-door in the grassroots effort to put a price on carbon pollution. She is simultaneously pursuing her BS in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont.
Colleen F. Halley, Associate Director
cfh-2015-web(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.
Emma Schoenberg, Field Coordinator
(802) 793-8851
Emma is a lifelong Vermonter, born and raised in Montpelier. She graduated from UVM in 2014 where she studied environmental studies and was active in food and social justice campaigns. Emma interned with Rural Vermont in 2013 focused Raw Milk education and outreach. Most recently, she’s been working for local food companies, as both farmer and direct marketer. She’s eager to get back into organizing for environmental, social and climate justice by building and demonstrating grassroots support for fossil fuel divestment in Vermont.
Falko Schilling, Esq. Consumer & Environmental 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.
Kati Gallagher, Consumer & Environmental Associate
(802) 223-5221 ext.28
Kati is in the second of a two-year fellowship as a Field Organizer with VPIRG. 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 orgnization, 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 conducts grassroots organizing for a variety of VPIRG campaigns. She also serves as an Assistant Director for VPIRG’s summer door canvass.
Laura Mistretta, Field Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext. 16
Laura Mistretta is a field organizer for VPIRG working to tackle climate change by putting a price on carbon pollution here in the state. Laura graduated from Duke University with a B.A. in Environmental Science and Policy and was involved with a student-led effort to divest Duke’s endowment from the top 200 publicly traded fossil fuel companies. Before starting with VPIRG Laura completed a year-long fellowship in grassroots organizing with Green Corps, during which she worked to end the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, built public support for the designation of Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada and went door to door in New Jersey to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act. As a field organizer, Laura’s job is to recruit and mobilize activists across the state to show Vermont’s legislature that taking action on climate change is the right thing to do for Vermonters, for the economy and for the environment.
Liz Edsell, Field Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 15
Liz Edsell, VPIRG’s Field Director, has over a decade of experience in grassroots organizing and environmental advocacy. Liz directs field operations for all VPIRG campaigns and is responsible for engaging members and citizens across Vermont in efforts to protect the public interest, including coordinating coalition organizing for the successful GMO labeling campaign and now the Energy Independent Vermont campaign to put a price on carbon pollution. Before coming to VPIRG, Liz served as Associate Director of The Conservation Campaign an advocacy affiliate of The Trust for Public Land, and kicked off her organizing career in Green Corps’ Field School for Environmental Organizing. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002 with honors in Environmental Studies.
Megan Noonan, Government Reform Associate
(802) 223-5221 ext.29
Megan is in the first of a two-year fellowship as a Democracy Associate with VPIRG. Megan earned her BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science from the University of Vermont in May 2015. Before joining VPIRG’s full time staff, Megan participated in three of VPIRG’s summer door canvassing campaigns as a canvasser, field manager, and assistant director. She also worked as a semester intern on the GMO Labeling campaign. As a student, she served as a policy intern with the Franklin Watershed Committee, co-directed UVM’s Student Legal Services, and worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Environmental Program. Megan is responsible for organizing support, researching, and advocating for democracy and getting big money out of politics in Vermont. She is the lead director for VPIRG’s 2016 summer door canvass.
Ryan Garvey, Clean Energy Associate
(802) 223-5221 ext. 30
Ryan is in his first year of a two-year fellowship as a Clean Energy Associate with VPIRG. Ryan graduated from the University of Vermont with a BA in Political Science in May 2015. Prior to joining VPIRG’s full-time staff, Ryan participated in two of VPIRG’s summer door canvassing campaigns as a Field Manager and Assistant Director. Ryan also interned with VPIRG at the University of Vermont as a campus organizer. Along with continuing work on the summer canvass, Ryan will be responsible for organizing support, researching and advocating for clean energy in the state of Vermont.
Theo Fetter, Clean Energy Advocate
(802) 223-5221 ext. 17
Theo joined VPIRG for the 2016 legislative session as the Clean Energy Advocate. Since graduating from Vermont Law School with a JD and a Master’s, Theo has focused on Vermont energy policy and regulation. Issue advocacy in Vermont’s capital city has been a natural progression for Theo, who received a BA in political science from Guilford College and later worked on several successful political campaigns including the 2007-2008 Obama presidential campaign. Outside of work, Theo is deeply involved in Ultimate (frisbee) as a player, coach, and youth organizer, and with starting a family farm in Tunbridge VT.
Tom Hughes, Energy Independent Vermont Campaign Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 22
Tom is an accomplished entrepreneur and administrator that comes to VPIRG after more than 25 years of politics, business and nonprofit work. He’ll use all of these varied experiences to coordinate the Energy Independent Vermont coalition and manage our campaign to put a price on carbon pollution in Vermont. Tom’s leadership skills were honed in his prior roles in executive leadership as CEO of Sunward Systems, a Vermont-based solar thermal business, and as Executive Director of Democracy for America. For two decades Tom held various roles on political campaigns at both the state and national levels. He also spent time as Advance Team Lead in the White House during the Clinton Administration. Tom has volunteered in support of clean energy in Vermont serving as a board member and officer for both the Energy Co-op of Vermont and Renewable Energy Vermont. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from UVM in Political Science and is a graduate of American University’s Campaign Management Institute.
Walter Gustafson, Field Organizer
(802) 223-5221 ext. 10
Walter is a VPIRG Field Organizer focused on organizing citizens to take climate action and building the grassroots support needed to pass the carbon pollution tax. 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 lead director in 2015, where he inspired the team about the power of face-to-face organizing and happened to break office records along the way.
Zach Berger, Field Organizer
(802) 793-5651
Zach is in the first of a two-year fellowship as a Field Organizer with VPIRG. He began his work with VPIRG as a canvasser in the summer of 2014, working to get big money out of politics in the state of Vermont. Zach earned his BS in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont in May 2015, focusing in environmental policy and development. As a Field Organizer, Zach is responsible for organizing citizens around climate change action, and building the necessary grassroots support to pass the carbon pollution tax. During the summer, Zach serves as an Assistant Director for the summer canvass office.
Zach Tomanelli, Online Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 ext. 21
Zach is VPIRG’s Online Coordinator. Before joining VPIRG, Zach was an Online Organizer and Community Director at the progressive news and activism website Firedoglake where he worked on everything from environmental protection to drug policy reform. He’s also spent time at the American Civil Liberties Union, Democracy Now! and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. Zach is a 2011 graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. As Online Coordinator, Zach is responsible for managing all of VPIRG’s digital communications, including advocacy emails, web posts and social media.