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 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.
Becca Allen, Finance & Administration Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 ext. 25
Becca is the Finance and Administration Coordinator 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 fiancee. She is proud to be a member of the VPIRG team where she can help fight for and with her fellow Vermonters.
Ben Edgerly Walsh, Climate & Energy Program Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 23
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.
Christina Fornaciari, Communications & Engagement Manager
(802) 223-5221 ext. 10
Christina is VPIRG’s Communications and Engagement Manager, integrating and elevating VPIRG’s field organizing, programmatic communications, and digital advocacy. Christina has been with VPIRG since 2013 when she canvassed for the Right to Know GMO labeling campaign, and has since been with the organization in various capacities, from campus intern to canvass director and lead organizer. Christina is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies.
Daniel Brown, Government Reform Associate
Dan Christmas State House(802) 223-5221 ext. 13
Daniel is in his second year of a two-year fellowship as the Government Reform Associate with VPIRG. He studied Political Science and History at the University of Vermont. Prior to joining VPIRG’s full-time staff, Daniel participated in the 2016 door canvass to put a price on carbon pollution as a field manager. In addition to directing the summer canvass, Daniel will be responsible for researching, organizing support and advocating for government transparency in the state of Vermont.
Jack O'Callaghan, Energy Independent Vermont Associate

(802) 223-5221 ext. 14
Jack O’Callaghan is in his second year of a two-year fellowship with VPIRG. He’s looking forward to his work as a field organizer for the Energy Independent Vermont campaign. Previously he worked on the summer canvass for three summers and thoroughly enjoys the State of Vermont, particularly its people. He graduated from St.Michael’s College in 2017 where he studied Political Science and Economics. Ask him about why he values energy independence!
Liston Tatum, Data Manager
(802) 223-5221 ext. 27
As a database architect at My Web Grocer, Liston helped assemble a trans-national group of integrated database servers; it was a fun, challenging; nice place to work. But in recent years Liston has become increasingly convinced climate change was not only real (that’s obvious), but constitutes an existential threat to civilization – leading him to come to work for VPIRG. He’s grateful to our supporters for the opportunity to do his part, and make at least a living wage fighting to protect our planet.
Liz Edsell, Associate Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 15
Liz Edsell, VPIRG’s Associate 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.
Meg Root, Membership Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 ext. 14
Meg Root joined VPIRG in 2018 as the Membership Coordinator. In this role, she works in all areas of Development, including member communications and engagement, fundraising and donor prospecting. Meg attained a B.S. from Appalachian State University in Sustainable Development with a concentration in Community, Regional and Global Development. She is extremely passionate about sustainability and protecting people and the planet.
Nellie Marvel, Development Manager
(802) 223-5221 ext. 24
Nellie serves as the Development Manager. In this role, she coordinates all fundraising aspects for VPIRG to keep up the fight for Vermont’s environment, democracy, and people. Prior to joining VPIRG in 2017, Nellie worked as the Development Associate for Democracy for America in Burlington, and in Washington, DC as a Legislative Fellow for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She holds an M.S. from Antioch University New England in Environmental Studies, concentrating in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability. When not raising money to protect the public interest, Nellie can be found playing roller derby, hiking, or crafting something.
Sam Hurt, Environmental Health Associate
Sam_Hurt(802) 223-5221 ext. 16
Sam is in her first year of a two-year fellowship as the Environmental Health Associate with VPIRG. She graduated in May of 2017 with a degree in Global Studies and a minor in Psychology at the University of Vermont. She started her career with VPIRG as a field manager on the 2016 canvass to put a price on carbon pollution, and continued on the 2017 canvass before beginning her fellowship. As the Environmental Health Associate, Sam will be doing research regarding issues such as toxics, zero waste initiatives, regenerative agriculture, and other problems surrounding air and water quality within the state of Vermont.
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.
Zach Tomanelli, Communications & Engagement Director
(802) 223-5221 ext. 21
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.