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 few 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.
Anna is VPIRG’s Environmental Health Fellow. Anna started with VPIRG in 2021 as a canvasser working on the Bottle Bill Campaign. She was an Assistant Director for the 2022 and 2023 summer canvasses. Anna stayed VPIRG after graduating from UVM because she deeply admires VPIRG’s commitment to their people-based mission. Her favorite part about the job is getting to connect with Vermonters and discuss the issues most important to them. Anna is also an aspiring artist and loves her dog, Jinx.
Becca is the Finance and Administration Director for VPIRG. She works to keep VPIRG’s finances and office in order. In her role she ensures that all financial reporting is accurate, properly categorized, and up to date. She came to VPIRG in 2018 and feels very lucky to to use her accounting skills in an organization that is dedicated to issues she is passionate about. She grew up in a large family in rural Vermont, where conservation and environmental protection were part of daily life. She has a passion for politics and enjoys witnessing grassroots organizing up close. In her spare time she enjoys swimming, reading non-fiction, and exploring small towns in New England with her husband. She is proud to be a member of the VPIRG team where she can help fight for and with her fellow Vermonters.
Ben graduated from the University of Vermont in 2003 with a degree in Environmental Studies and focused his thesis research on land conservation in a remote area of Costa Rica. He began his career in fundraising in Oregon for numerous groups such as the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, the Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club, Save the Children and local organizations such as Save Our Wild Salmon. After 2 years out west, he moved back to Burlington, VT and worked with TrueMajority.org as an Operations and Special Projects Manager for 5 years. After traveling and living abroad with his wife, Ben became a part of the development team at Democracy for America in 2012. At DFA he helped implement the organizations fundraising strategies, and developed a major gifts program responsible for bringing in more than half of DFA’s resources. Ben was the development director for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2023 before deciding to return to his roots with VPIRG.
When he’s not working, he devotes himself to his family & his other passion — photography.
Since 2012, Ben has run VPIRG’s energy program, leading campaigns on issues from establishing Vermont’s groundbreaking renewable energy standard, to expanding our net metering program, to establishing nation-leading appliance efficiency standards and defending Vermont’s energy efficiency work from attacks from the right. 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.
Danielle (Dani) works for VPIRG as the organization’s Communication Associate. She started working for VPIRG during the 2022 summer canvass operation where she acted as a canvasser and a field manager. Dani eventually became an Assistant Director, in charge of Recruitment, Onboarding, and Training, for the 2023 canvass. Dani graduated from the University of Vermont in 2023 with a major in Political Science and a minor in Computer Science. She is passionate about making politics more accessible for the general public and maximizing VPIRG’s public outreach and education. In her free time, Dani enjoys hiking, seeing live music, and spending time with animals.
Elijah works on VPIRG’s Communications team, informing and engaging our members and the public around our core issues, translating complex policy into easy-to-understand messages. A graduate of the University of Vermont, he started with VPIRG as a canvasser in 2018, working his way up to assistant canvass director in 2020 before joining us full time. As a New Jersey transplant with a passion for good food and grassroots organizing, he is thrilled to be able to work for the common good in this great state.
Jane grew up in New York State where she avidly skied, sailed, and spent a lot of time outdoors with a great appreciation for the environment. She holds degrees in both environmental science and political science from the University of Vermont where she had various research positions from water quality to policy analysis. She served as the youngest woman elected to the Burlington City Council where she focused primarily on transportation and energy, divestment, and public safety. Jane has worked in the solar industry in Vermont as an Outreach and Policy Coordinator helping to build the renewable energy movement and make clean energy accessible to Vermonters. She also served as a Northeast Fellow for Our Climate, an organization empowering young people to educate the public and elected officials about science-based, equitable climate policy solutions. In addition, she previously served as a student VPIRG board member and a canvass field manager. Jane enjoys traveling, baking, hiking, and anything music related.
Jordan is VPIRG’s Climate Campaign Manager. She recently moved to Vermont from Brooklyn, New York after serving as the engagement manager for an environmental non-profit focused on stewardship, education, and advocacy. She graduated from Hofstra University with a degree in Communications in 2017. Though she is a new resident of the state, Jordan has spent much of her life in the NEK with family. In her new role at VPIRG, she looks forward to developing an expansive campaign that engages and inspires Vermonters to take climate action. In her free time, Jordan enjoys listening to live music, traveling, and spending time outdoors.
Josh (he/him) is VPIRG’s Climate & Energy Fellow. He has recently moved to Vermont from Louisville, Kentucky, where he graduated from the University of Louisville with a degree in Political Science in 2022. During undergrad, he had the opportunity to intern for the Kentucky General Assembly and on local electoral campaigns. Growing up in Kentucky, he had countless opportunities to foster his love for the outdoors, while also growing an understanding of the need for better climate policies. In his role at VPIRG, he hopes to combine his passion for the environment and political education to help educate the citizens of Vermont on crucial climate legislation.
Lilly is VPIRG’s Development Associate and Executive Assistant. Originally from Chicago, she moved to Vermont to spend more time outdoors and find meaningful ways to protect the environment. She graduated from UVM in May 2022 with a BA in Environmental Studies. Since then, she has worked with VPIRG as a summer canvasser for the Keep Vermont Cool campaign and VPIRG Votes. Now, she is responsible for providing executive, organizational, and developmental support for the organization. She loves animals, hiking, skiing, and growing plants.
Liz Edsell, VPIRG’s Associate Director, has over 15 years of experience in grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, fundraising and non-profit management. Liz directs all internal operations and oversees the canvass and communications and engagement teams that engage thousands of members and Vermonters across the state in efforts to protect the public interest. Since joining the VPIRG team in 2011, she has supervised and trained dozens of budding organizers and canvass directors, helped to triple VPIRG’s membership and is currently leading a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative. 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.
Marcie is an Advocate focusing on environmental health and zero-waste policies. Marcie previously completed VPIRG’s 2-year Fellowship focusing on the same issue areas and has worked on 5 of VPIRG’s summer canvasses. She is passionate about exploring the intersection between solid waste, toxic pollution, and climate change, and hopes to participate in shifting the burdens arising from these crises back onto the corporations that created them, instead of on our communities.
Melissa (Lis) is VPIRG’s Membership and Events Manager. In this role, she works collaboratively with staff, members, and supporters throughout Vermont to build support and enthusiasm around VPIRG’s work. Melissa loves connecting with people and building communities. She graduated from SUNY Purchase in 2010 with a degree in Environmental Sociology. After spending a year in Washington D.C., canvassing for Greenpeace, she moved to Vermont to obtain her Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy at Vermont Law School. In her professional career, she has most recently held positions with The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board AmeriCorps Program, Vermont Law School, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. She is fueled by a desire to make the world a better place for future generations and believes strongly in the power of the collective impact model to solve our most pressing public challenges.
Sam is VPIRG’s Democracy Associate. After graduating Hobart and William Smith Colleges with a degree in Political Science, Sam has a deep respect for our democratic institutions and understands our democracy is most healthy when as many people engage in the political process as possible. Sam has worked on VPIRG’s summer canvass since 2018 as a Canvasser, Field Manager, and Assistant Director. Having grown up in Vermont, he looks forward to working to strengthening our democratic process, ensuring government is more open, responsive to, and reflective of ordinary Vermonters. In his spare time, you can find him on the mountain, downhill skiing, or hiking.
Sinéad is VPIRG’s Democracy Fellow. She started on the VPIRG canvass in 2021 and has since been a canvasser, field manager, and assistant director. She previously sat on VPIRG’s Board of Trustees. Originally from Long Island, she appreciates how close-to-home and accessible government can be in Vermont and is adamant about protecting and improving democratic processes to preserve the interests of citizens in each corner of the state. Sinéad has a BA in Political Science and a BA in English, both from the University of Vermont. She loves the ocean, knitting, and a good book.
Tom Hughes is a Senior Strategist at VPIRG. His leadership skills were honed as CEO of Sunward Systems, president of Neuton Power Equipment, executive director of Democracy for America, New Hampshire Field Director for Dean for America, campaign manager for Doug Racine, deputy finance director for Gore 2000, and executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party. He worked on the White House advance team during the Clinton-Gore Administration and on advance teams for the Dukakis-Bentsen and Obama-Biden campaigns. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from UVM in Political Science and is a graduate of American University’s Campaign Management Institute.
Zach is VPIRG’s Communications & Engagement Director. 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!, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and National Public Radio. Zach is a 2011 graduate of Ithaca College with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In his role at VPIRG, Zach manages all of VPIRG’s advocacy and outreach communications including emails, web posts, social media, mailings and publications. He’s also leads VPIRG advocacy efforts on digital consumer protection issues – fighting for data privacy/security, net neutrality and affordable high-speed internet access for all Vermonters. Zach also oversees VPIRG’s data, information and internal technology operations.