KIDS ARE PRIORITY ONE COALITION, Middlesex, Vermont, Community Organizer
NORTHERN FOREST ALLIANCE, APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB, Montpelier, Vermont Founding Director, Businesses for the Northern Forest
FREE LANCE WRITER
THE CONFLUENCE COMMUNITY SPORTS CENTER, President of the Board of Directors, 2009-present
MAMA SAYS, Co-President of the Board of Directors, 2004 – 2010
GREEN MOUNTAIN MULTI-SPORT, Board of Directors, 2008-2009
MIDDLESEX TOWN MEETING SOLUTIONS COMMITTEE, 2002 – 2007
RICHMOND LAND TRUST, Board of Directors, 1998-1999
MAD RIVER PATHWAY ASSOCIATION, Board of Directors, 1996-1997
Favorite part of job? Last winter, I sat in a room of parents gathered to share their experience with affording quality, child care so they could work. US Senator Bernie Sanders - who was in Vermont on a district break - listened carefully as they each told stories that were common in their challenges and articulate in their needs for system-wide policy change. That meeting represented a true nexus of my work as a community organizer around early childhood issues. My greatest reward comes from cultivating a shared understanding between Vermonters that have a stake in public programs and services and policymakers who make decisions on public policy.
Most inspiring mentor? Vermont has a strong culture of entrepreneurism, which stems from a history of product innovation and resourceful people. Nick Petterssen, the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization, The Confluence Community Sports Center, reflects this spirit of “Yankee ingenuity”. An accomplished athlete and gifted instructor, he opened a gym one year ago in Montpelier that is fast becoming a model for high quality programming for all ages and abilities, as well as a catalyst for creating a long lasting culture of fitness in Central Vermont. Nick’s unique style is largely responsible for the organization’s early success. Visionary and creative, he can be thinking about ambitious plans for the future one minute, and be attentive to the detailed needs of participants in a class the next. Nick’s endless energy and enthusiasm for The Confluence’s movement towards community health is inspiring to me and will benefit Vermonters into the future.
Who is your living hero? It should not come as a surprise that I can appreciate Barack Obama’s roots as a community organizer in Chicago. His work to understand local public housing issues at basement church meetings with community members, and his commitment to development leadership in others - one individual or one issue at a time – seems a critical foundation for the momumental responsibility that he carries today. These are daunting times - the issues are many and the solutions complex- but I admire his optimism, bold ideas and articulate voice and feel lucky to witness this unique time on our nation’s history.
Favorite downtime activity? Spending time with our kids is my favorite downtime, uptime and anytime activity. Austin and Carson are identical twin boys, almost 7 and most people can’t tell them apart. When my husband and I are hanging at home with the kids on a summer day – reading books in the hammock or picking cherry tomatoes in the garden, swimming in the pond or ambling through the meadows – I feel most centered. We had only raised the timber frame we now call home a few years before the kids were born, so I can’t imagine it without the playful wrestling, piles of lego toys and endlessly endearing curiosity about the world.
Favorite Vermont Escape? Traveling through Vermont’s mountains on running shoes, skis or a mountain bike has always been an important part of my lifestyle. The woods have given me many things: been a source of artistic expression as I trace a tight trail through a stand of trees; provide a recreation community to gather with at the trailhead or the start line; and offer a place for reflection, testing of physical and mental abilities and camaraderie on a summit ridge. The wild landscapes I love also represent a number of Vermont values that I believe in: community organization, sense of identity connected to place and a commitment to a quality of life.
Vermont Business Person you would most want to network with? I had just become a mother when I picked up Madeline Kunin’s biography, Living a Political Life, in 1994. The first line of chapter 2 reads: “The first time I ran for office, in 1972, it was by mistake.” I read more about how - despite identifying herself as a homemaker - she pursued a local elected office, which unfolded into an inspiring career of state, national and international service. As I weathered a cold Vermont winter nurturing two small babies, I was warmed reading her accounts of kitchen table community service. I was inspired by how she overcame the traditional barriers of gender in political office and ways she represented the movement behind women’s success in leadership positions. Over the years, I have heard her speak on education and women’s leadership, and recently meet her briefly in person. In my work with mothers to understand their power in articulating the need for the societal supports that ensure their success as parents as well as members of the workforce, I would be honored to network with Madeline Kunin.