Staff

Paul Burns, Executive Director

paul @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 12

Paul Burns has served as VPIRG’s Executive Director since 2001. He has been working as an attorney, advocate and organizer for PIRGs in New York, Massachusetts, and 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.

Austin Andersen, Summer Field Organizer

austin @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 16

Austin first joined VPIRG in December of 2013 as an intern working on the Campaign to Stop the Fracked Gas Pipeline while also conducting research and engaging in community outreach.  He continued his work for college credit through the winter term before being offered a full-time position as a Field Organizer for summer 2014. Austin is a senior at Union College, in Schenectady, New York, where he is pursuing a major in Environmental Policy and an Energy Studies minor. Originally from Red Bank, New Jersey, Austin began his grassroots advocacy career last summer as a canvasser with Clean Water Action, working to shut down coal-fired power plants in the state that were polluting local rivers, lakes, and streams. At Union, Austin is a resident of Ozone House, the school’s sustainability theme house and an active member of USustain, the sustainability council, while also writing for both student newspapers and rowing for the college’s varsity crew.

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Ben Walsh, Clean Energy Advocate

ben @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 23

Ben Walsh has served as the Clean Energy Advocate for VPIRG since 2012. Prior to taking over VPIRG’s Energy Program, Ben led VPIRG’s grassroots organizing as its Field Director and two summers as Canvass Director. 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 to research, identify and advance clean energy policy solutions in and out of the State House.

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Cassandra Wills, Office Manager

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.

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Colleen F. Halley, Associate Director

colleen @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 13

Colleen Halley has served as VPIRG’s Associate Director since 2006. 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 (PH International) where she designed and supported international community-based development programs, raising and managing 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.

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Dylan Zwicky, Clean Energy Associate

dylan @ vpirg.org  (802) 223-5221 ext. 22

Dylan is in the first of a two-year fellowship with VPIRG serving as a Clean Energy Associate. He joins the Montpelier staff after six consecutive summers working on VPIRG’s Summer Canvass, assistant directing the last three years. 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. As Clean Energy Associate, Dylan is responsible for advocacy and organizing on clean energy issues. Dylan will also serve as Canvass Director in summer 2014.

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Eliza Walp, Field Organizer

eliza @ vpirg.org (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 will be Assistant Director of the 2014 summer canvass office.

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Falko Schilling, Esq. Consumer Protection Advocate

falko @ vpirg.org (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.

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Jeff Frew, Data Coordinator

jeff @ vpirg.org  802-223-5221 ext.27

Jeff is VPIRG’s Data Coordinator.  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.

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Julia Michel, Campaign Coordinator

julia @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext. 21

Julia is VPIRG’s Campaign 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 works closely with advocates and field to help drive communication with our members and the general public on our issues using print, online and social media.

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Kati Gallagher, Campus Organizer

kati @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221

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.

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Laura Seeman, Membership Coordinator

laura @ vpirg.org  (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.

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Liz Edsell, Field Director

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.

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Taylor Johnson, Field Organizer

taylor @ vpirg.org (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.

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Walt Gustafson, Organizer

walt @ vpirg.org (802) 223-5221 ext.36

Walt is the VPIRG organizer for the Fracked Gas Pipeline Campaign. Walt is a native Vermonter who has organized for campaigns across the United States while working with various groups. He worked as a Field Manager with VPIRG for two summer canvasses, where he worked to close Vermont Yankee and improve Vermont’s energy portfolio. He has also worked with the Human Rights Campaign on marriage equality, Environment America on clean air and water regulations, and CALPIRG on cutting subsidies that are going to giant agricultural corporations. He spent a year working with the Fund for Public Interest attending and running activists trainings across the country. Recently he directed the canvass office in Santa Cruz California where he set numerous fundraising records and got the city council to ban plastic bags. He is currently in the Fellowship program for the New Organizing Institute where he is working on clean energy.

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