- Paul Burns, Executive Director
- Andy Perry, Information Manager
- Ben Walsh, Clean Energy Advocate
- Cassandra Wills, Office Manager
- Colleen Thomas, Associate Director
- Falko Schilling, Consumer Protection Advocate
- Julia Michel, Membership Coordinator
- Lauren Hierl, Environmental Health Advocate
- Leah Marsters, Field Organizer
- Liz Edsell, Field Director
- Taylor Johnson, Canvass Director
Paul Burns, Executive Director
paul @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 12
Paul Burns is VPIRG’s Executive Director. He has been working as an organizer, advocate and attorney for PIRGs in New York, Massachusetts and now Vermont since 1986. As Toxics Program Director for MassPIRG, Paul was instrumental in the passage of major environmental legislation aimed at rivers protection, brownfields cleanup, beach water testing and pesticide use reduction and disclosure. He earned his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York College at Oswego, and his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law. At VPIRG, Paul serves as the senior advocate for all programs and lead advocate for our democracy program, represents the organization with the media and state leaders, heads our fundraising efforts and provides overall vision, direction and leadership for the organization. Concurrently, Paul serves as the New England Regional Program Director for Environment America, where he plays a leading role in the development and coordination of state-based and regional environmental advocacy campaigns across New England.
andy @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 18
Andy is VPIRG’s Information Manager. He comes to Vermont after working as the California Data Coordinator Obama for America in 2008. In this role Andy helped facilitate 10 million phone calls from California volunteers into 20 battleground states. More recently, Andy served as Organizing for America’s California Voter File Manager, coordinating data and voter targeting for two statewide races and five congressional races in 2010. In the distant past, he was a founding member of the Los Angeles Student Coalition, which organized around South African apartheid and in support of L.A.’s homeless community. Andy holds a BA in English Literature from Swarthmore College and an MA in English from Brown University, as well as a preliminary teaching certificate from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society. At VPIRG, Andy maintains data systems and works to ensure that all activities undertaken by the organization are data driven to achieve maximum impact.
ben @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 23
Ben Walsh is the Clean Energy Advocate for VPIRG. Ben comes to this position after over a year as VPIRG’s Field Director and spending the two previous summers helping to lead VPIRG’s summer door canvass. In both these roles, Ben engaged and mobilized thousands of Vermonters in support of a clean energy future. His expert grassroots and community organizing skills were honed during his time as a Green Corps organizer, a program that gave him experience on advocacy campaigns for National Environmental Trust, Environment America and the Oregon Natural Desert Association. Later, he served as the recruitment director for Green Corps. A native of Vermont, Ben holds a BS in Environmental Studies and BA in Political Science from UVM. At VPIRG, Ben works with VPIRG’s Clean Energy Program Director to research, identify and advance clean energy policy solutions in the State House.
cwills @ vpirg.org (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 has now formally 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 the past 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 @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 13
Colleen Thomas 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. She is also a member of the New England chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 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.
falko @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 26
Falko is VPIRG’s Consumer Protection Advocate. A native of Vermont, Falko recently received his law degree from Vermont Law School. He is very excited to be joining VPIRG as a full time Advocate having spent this past fall working at VPIRG as a Bridge the Gap Fellow. During his time in law school he worked with a number of organizations involved in legislative advocacy and grassroots organizing. Much of his work has been focused on agricultural issues, and the preservation of Vermont’s working landscape. He worked in the Vermont statehouse during the past two legislative sessions, 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.
julia @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 14
Julia is VPIRG’s Membership Coordinator. She comes to VPIRG after spending the past year interning as a legislative intern for the Vermont Speaker of the House and serving as events coordinator for the Vermont Senate Victory PAC. In these roles, she’s honed her skills communicating with constituents, crafting political messaging strategies and assisted in online communications via websites and social media. Prior to this, Julia worked as a political blogger for Vermont Public Television and as a journalism intern in India. She graduated from UVM in 2011 with a BA in Political Science and Global Studies. At VPIRG, Julia provides frontline customer service to our members and contributes to VPIRG development efforts. She also works closely with field and advocates to help drive communication with our members and the general public on our issues using print, online and social media.
lauren @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 25
Lauren Hierl is VPIRG’s Environmental Health Advocate. Lauren has spent the past decade working on a number of environmental issues. She most recently directed the national campaign to keep oil and gas development out of the iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Based in Washington, DC, she successfully advocated to Congress and the administration to keep this special place protected, while providing creative opportunities for hundreds of thousands of people from across the country to express their support. Previously, Lauren’s work included implementing a climate change study in South Africa, and managing a project to protect endangered species in southern California. Lauren received her BA from Dartmouth College in Environmental Studies and Biology, and Master of Public Policy and Master of Environmental Management degrees from Duke University. At VPIRG, Lauren researches and advocates for policy solutions to help keep Vermont’s citizens and environment healthy, focusing primarily on toxics and recycling issues.
leah @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 16
Leah Marsters is taking part in the VPIRG Fellows program, which trains recent college graduates in the skills of grassroots organizing and advocacy through a two-year organizing placement, including a leadership role on our summer door canvass. Before joining the full time staff, Leah was a VPIRG canvasser for the past four summers (assistant directing the past two) where she mobilized support on issues from clean energy to environmental health. Leah graduated from the University of Puget Sound with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and a minor in environmental policy and decision making. While at school she wrote her thesis on grassroots organizing and social movements, using VPIRG’s work on Vermont Yankee as the main case study. Now she is excited to put her academic interests to work in the state where she was born and raised.
liz @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 15
Liz Edsell is VPIRG’s Field Director. Liz has nearly a decade of experience in grassroots organizing and environmental advocacy. Previously, as Associate Director of The Conservation Campaign, advocacy affiliate of The Trust for Public Land, Liz helped to create, renew and defend more than $20 billion in public funding to protect land and water via ballot and legislative campaigns. As an organizer with Green Corps, the Field School for Environmental Organizing, Liz mobilized volunteers, interns and coalition partners in campaigns working to promote clean energy with Greenpeace, halt the tobacco industry’s influence over global public health treaty negotiations with Corporate Accountability International, stop rollbacks to the Clean Air Act with USPIRG and much more. She graduated from the University of Chicago in 2002 with honors in Environmental Studies and from Green Corps in 2003 as the Leadership Award recipient. 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 @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 17
Taylor Johnson is taking part in the VPIRG Fellows program, which trains recent college graduates in the skills of grassroots organizing and advocacy through a two-year organizing placement, including a leadership role on our summer door canvass. Before joining VPIRG’s year-round staff, Taylor spent three summers as a part of the summer outreach program, the last two as an assistant director. 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 recently 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.