Paul Burns, Executive Director
(802) 223-5221 x12
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 x25
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 x23
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.
Camila Thorndike, Climate Program Specialist
(802) 223-5221 x26
A lifelong environmental advocate, Camila recently led the campaign in the District of Columbia to successfully pass the Clean Energy D.C. Omnibus Act, the strongest set of sub-national climate policies in the United States. Camila was born and raised by her Oregonian father and Chilean flower-farming mother in Ashland, Oregon. After graduating from Whitman College in 2010, she worked at the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, led outreach for a regional planning process in Arizona, and spearheaded public engagement for a national musical on fossil fuels. In 2013 she co-founded Our Climate, a national youth-focused carbon pricing advocacy nonprofit now active in 15 states. Camila is a Udall Scholar, Sitka Fellow, Mic 50 and Grist 50 awardee, and recipient of the 2018 D.C. Environmental Network Award. She is honored to advance VPIRG’s critical mission before beginning graduate studies as a Louis Bacon Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, starting summer 2019.
Daniel Brown, Government Reform Advocate
Dan Christmas State House(802) 223-5221 x13
Daniel is VPIRG’s Government Reform Advocate. He is responsible for researching, organizing support and advocating for a transparent and open government in Vermont and combating the corrosive effects of big money in our political system. 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.
Izzy Handanos, Campus and Community Engagement Organizer
Izzy Handanos(802) 223-5221 x26
Isabel is in her first year of a two-year fellowship as VPIRG’s Campus and Community Engagement Organizer. She has been with VPIRG since 2016 where she worked on the campaign to put a price on carbon pollution, and has since been involved with the organization in various capacities. Isabel’s work includes building a strong organizational presence on VT college campuses, engaging with and getting young people involved in political movements, and providing support to budding young activists seeking to make a difference.
Jack O'Callaghan, Energy Independent Vermont Associate

(802) 223-5221 x14
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!
Kanika Gandhi, Clean Energy Advocate

(802) 223-5221 x17
Kanika is VPIRG’s Clean Energy Advocate. She is responsible for researching, identifying, and advocating for policies that advance clean energy solutions in VT and beyond. Kanika works to advance a broad range of complementary clean energy policy solutions, such as low-income weatherization, energy efficiency, and electrification. She also works to protect Vermonters against attacks on progress made in the clean energy space. Kanika joins VPIRG after spending the past few years in DC, where she worked on researching and advancing policies for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Kanika holds BAs in both Public Policy and Italian Studies, as well as an MPA from Brown University.
Liston Tatum, Data Manager
(802) 223-5221 x27
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 x15
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.
Maeve Power, Clean Energy Associate
(802) 223-5221 x30
Maeve is a first-year fellow with VPIRG working to research and promote clean energy solutions that make sense for Vermonters across the state. As a 2017 graduate of Saint Michael’s College with a degree in International Relations and minors in Environmental Studies and Spanish, Maeve is excited to put her skills to work on behalf of the Vermont people and be a part of real climate change solutions. As a native New Yorker, she loves to complain about the lack of a good slice of pizza this close to the Canadian border, but nevertheless, she is so grateful to the Vermont people for giving her the joys of a maple creemee and the warmth of a new home. Formerly the Office and Human Resource Administrator for the 2018 Summer Canvass, she looks forward to putting her boots on the ground as a Canvass Director next summer and getting to know the amazing people of Vermont who make VPIRG what it is.
Meg Root, Membership Coordinator
(802) 223-5221 x14
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 x24
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.
Samantha Hurt, Environmental Associate
Sam_Hurt(802) 223-5221 x16
Samantha is in her second year of a two-year fellowship as the Environmental 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. As a self-proclaimed “southerner,” she would prefer living in the often blistering cold of Vermont over anywhere else (no matter how warm).  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 Associate, Samantha researches and advocates for toxic chemical reform, zero waste initiatives, and other issues important to protecting the health of Vermont’s environment and people.
Tom Hughes, Energy Independent Vermont Campaign Director
(802) 223-5221 x22
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 x21
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.