Meet Vital Communities’ New Directors

An earlier version of this post had an incorrect job title for new Board member Greg Norman.

At its May 20, 2021, meeting, the Vital Communities Board of Directors welcomed seven new members, more than replacing in number the four who were departing. (Read about those four remarkable people!) The new Directors bring backgrounds in planning, farming and farm policy, local businesses, health care, the elderly, and more. Here’s an introduction!

Meghan Butts

Meghan Butts, of Lebanon, NH, is Executive Director of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission and has worked closely with Vital Communities both in that job and as a volunteer on the Lebanon Energy Advisory Committee. “The [Vital Communities] staff I have worked with are kind, energetic, and truly believe in their work which shows me that Vital Communities is a great place to work. That is important to me when I consider supporting an organization. Also, I have learned through my work that Vital Communities is a key piece to connecting people together and you cannot have change or improvement without those connections. This shows Vital Communities’ value to the region.”   

Laura Ginsburg

Laura Ginsburg, of Tunbridge, VT, is Development Division Section Chief for the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. Her life experience includes living in Canada, New Zealand, and Montana, where she worked at a tribal college and owned and operated a dairy farm. She serves on the Tunbridge Planning Commission and Orange County Parent Child Center Board. “As a resident of Tunbridge, the connection to the Upper Valley is a critical component of my family’s daily lives—it’s where we shop, dine, recreate, and how we identify ourselves for geographic purposes. While Tunbridge is near the edge of what is considered the Upper Valley, organizations like Vital Communities are critical for engagement and development of priorities that impact our community—energy, food, transportation being key examples.” 

Tim Josephson

Tim Josephson, of Canaan, NH, General Manager of Lucky’s Coffee Garage, is a current member of the Mascoma Valley Regional School Board and recent member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Josephson said he hopes to provide a voice from the Mascoma area and as the manager of a small, locally owned start-up business. “I want to be able to give back to the Upper Valley at large and work to bridge the divide between communities within our region. We are all interconnected and rely on each other for so much, and yet we live in the small silos of our own towns. I am eager to work to reinvigorate towns such as Canaan in order to help them reverse their fortunes and create positive change by integrating more work of Vital Communities. Through community outreach and meeting people where they are, we can work to improve the Upper Valley in every town and revitalize our small towns, something I am passionate about. The COVID pandemic has shown that work can be flexible now, and small towns such as ones in the Upper Valley can be competitive through services such as broadband extensions and desirable communities.” Josephson recently earned a Master of Public Administration from Norwich University with a capstone thesis entitled “The New England Village: A Blueprint for 21st Century Rural Economic Redevelopment.” His views on diversity and equity have been influenced having “lived in places suffering from the aftermath of redlining and [I] have felt firsthand the effects of policies that hurt our society’s most vulnerable. I feel that my work on municipal law can help Vital Communities empower residents to take charge of their own towns to affect positive change by starting at the local level.” 

Robin Kilfeather-Mackey, of Cornish, NH, is Vice President of Operations of the Upper Valley Land Trust and former Dartmouth-Hitchcock Chief Financial Officer, and a licensed CPA with masters degrees in business administration, healthcare delivery science and conservation biology. “Having lived in the Upper Valley for the past 25 years, I have seen significant change occur, some positive, some negative. … I would like to volunteer my time to support organizations, like Vital Communities, which strive to make the Upper Valley a community that values and supports all persons while carefully stewarding our environmental resources for future generations.” 

Greg Norman, of Norwich, VT, is  Director, Community Health Improvement and Benefits at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center and represents that organization on the Board. His perspective is shaped by his working-class roots in a midwestern manufacturing community where he worked in factories before college, and his early-career work serving persons affected by mental illness, poverty, substance use, trauma, and other challenging issues. “Vital Communities plays an important role convening community partners on critical issues that face our community, including many which contribute to the long-term well-being and health of regional residents by addressing economic and sustainability issues needed for long-term regional viability. I would like to support the continuation of this work through my contributions to the Board, with a particular lens of helping ensure that the work of Vital Communities provides increasingly equitable benefit to our communities.  

Chelsea Paige

Chelsea Paige, of West Lebanon, NH, is a User Support Analyst for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and a lifelong resident of the Upper Valley, a Lebanon High School graduate, and Secretary of the Upper Valley Young Professionals Steering Committee. “As a young professional and woman of color who is native to this area, I believe that I would be able to offer a diverse perspective in my experiences living in a less diverse community. I have also been attending school and working full-time over the last three years, which is a less traditional path; I enjoy sharing my experiences, and learning about other people’s experiences as well.”

David Watts

David Watts, of Norwich, VT, is Director of Human Resources at Kendal at Hanover and has served on the boards of Leadership Upper Valley, David’s House, and the Grafton County Senior Citizens Council. He cites as influential having grown up lower middle class, being the first in his family to earn a college degree, and working for a labor union. “The Upper Valley suffers from a critical affordable housing shortage, access to mass transport, rising food prices, and the challenging but necessary changes to our energy infrastructure to address climate change. Systemic and individual racism lurks in many corners of our culture. These are formidable challenges that keep our region and its people from being all they can be. Our dual state status adds to these difficulties but also gives us a great opportunity to make change that works specifically for our region.”


Hats Off to Our Four Departing Board Members

An earlier version of this post had an incorrect title for Sally Kraft.

At its May 20 meeting, the Vital Communities Board of Directors bid farewell to Board of Directors members Bill Geraghty, Sally Kraft, Ronald Shaiko, and Ken Wells. Here’s a glimpse of what those four remarkable departing Board members brought to our organization! (Read about the seven new Board members.)

(L-R) Sally Kraft, Kathleen Geraghty, Bill Geraghty, Ron Shaiko, at the 2019 Vital Communities Open House. Photo by Perry Smith.

Bill Geraghty – Independent Consultant, Geraghty HR Consulting  

Hanover resident Bill Geraghty’s accomplishments include nearly a quarter-century leading human resources teams at the Upper Valley’s two largest employers, Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College, and before that, a combined 15 years at Princeton University and nearby Middlesex County College. Currently, Bill is an adjunct faculty member at both Franklin Pierce University and New England College. In addition, he leads his own consulting practice focusing on leadership development, coaching, positive employee relations, labor relations, hiring processes, and communications. Bill’s track record of volunteering is just as impressive as he willingly shares expertise gathered during his four-decade career by serving on the boards of several nonprofits. Bill also currently serves on the Hanover Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee. 

With 18 years of Vital Communities Board and Committee service, Bill is the institutional memory of the organization,” said Rachel Darrow, Vital Communities Finance Manager. “His vision, leadership, and understanding of the community we serve have helped shape the organization into what it is today. He leads by example, listening thoughtfully and encouraging others’ ideas.”

“I have been amazed by the quality of the staff and volunteers that have been involved in the variety of programs under Vital Communities’ umbrella,” said Bill.  “VC continues to respond to the needs of the Upper Valley Communities with excellent programs that improve the quality of life.  It has been a pleasure to see the growth of the VC programs and the flexibility to respond to needs.  This past year with the impact of COVID is just one more example of how the leadership, staff and volunteers stepped up to help our communities.”

 Sally Kraft, MD, MPH – Vice President of Population Health, Dartmouth-Hitchcock  

Also on the Board since 2016, Dr. Sally Kraft, MD, MPH is VP of Community Health at Dartmouth-Hitchcock where she leads a multi-disciplinary team dedicated to improving the health of communities across the region served by Dartmouth-Hitchcock faculty and affiliates.  She serves as subject matter expert in Dissemination and Implementation at the High Value Healthcare Collaborative. She served as the Medical Director of Quality, Safety and Innovation at the University of Wisconsin Health system from 2007-2014 where she led system-wide initiatives to redesign ambulatory care.  

“The breadth and depth of Sally’s understanding of communities and health is equally matched by her passion for helping people understand the complexities of community health,” said Rob Schultz, Vital Communities Manager of Leadership Upper Valley and Development.” Most importantly, she’s brilliant at helping folks see what they can do about it. In addition to her wonderful service on the Vital Communities Board, she’s been one of our most inspiring and effective presenters for Leadership Upper Valley.”  

Ronald Shaiko,  Associate Director for Curricular & Research Programs, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, Dartmouth College 

Ron has served on the Vital Communities Board since 2016, most recently as Chair. A Senior Fellow and the Associate Director for Curricular and Research Programs at the Rockefeller Center, Ron has taught in university for 34 years, 20 of them at Dartmouth. Prior to coming to Dartmouth, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Politics in the American Studies Center at Warsaw University in Poland during the 2000-2001 academic year. Throughout the decade of the 1990s, he taught at American University, where he founded and served as the founding academic director of the Lobbying Institute and served one year each as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Democracy Fellow at the United States Agency for International Development.  

“During my stint as interim Executive Director I could not have done it without the support and Guidance of Ron,” said Beth Roy, Vital Communities Food & Farm and Valley Quest Program Manager. “His attention to detail and his ability to ask good questions enabled me to pursue VC’s taking on of the Upper Valley Everyone Eats program with confidence that the project was and is a success for the community and Vital Communities as an organization.”  

Ken Wells – Chief Retail Lending Office, Mascoma Bank  

Ken Wells (right) getting a Sunrise Farm CSA 2008. Photo by Lisa Johnson.

On the Board since 2019, Ken has been employed by Mascoma Bank for over 30 years. He is currently the chair of the Vital Communities Local First Steering Committee and has been a resource and advocate for our Energy program and other efforts in recent years. Ken serves on the Finance Committee of the Carter Community Building Association. Ken has been with Mascoma since 1990 and has nearly 30 years in banking.  Ken is on the Finance Committee for the Carter Community Building Association in Lebanon.

“As chair of the Local First Steering Committee, Ken was a trusted advisor that I could always count on to ask thoughtful questions leading to more impactful programming,” said Nancy LaRowe, Vital Communities Economy and Food & Farm Coordinator. “We were fortunate to have him lend the Board of Directors his deep knowledge of the Upper Valley economy, practical insights, and commitment to community.”

Keynote Speech, Leadership Upper Valley Graduation, June 9, 2021,

The following speech was delivered by Monique Priestley, Chair, Vital Communities Board of Directors, at the Leadership Upper Valley Graduation on June 9, 2021, at the  Vermont Institute of Natural Science in Quechee, VT.

Hi, everyone! It is such an incredible honor to be here with you today.

Leadership Upper Valley was an amazing experience. I always go into leadership programs completely skeptical. Like brat-level cynical.

But LUV surprised me. It took me in and unexpectedly launched me into a completely new level of organizations, state boards, and Vermont Leadership Institute.

Even if I wanted to go back, I would never be able to unsee layers of myself that I have uncovered.

Leadership is a funny thing. It creeps up on you when you least expect it.

It delivers an addictive rush of adrenaline when you completely transform a person’s life. It can result in magical moments that make you feel an instant sense of electric connection to all of humanity.

At the same time, it can feel like the hardest, loneliest thing you have ever attempted. It can be something you do without even realizing it. Or it can be very intentional and come with a sense of carrying the weight of the entire world on your shoulders.

It can feel like the most pointless exercise in the world. But when you experience that moment when it all clicks, it can feel like you figured out the meaning of life.

I wanted to come here today with a speech full of nothing but rainbows and unicorns, but I have to be real with you. This work is hard. It is also the most grounding, inspiring, fulfilling path you could pursue.

For the longest time, leadership is not something I actively pursued. I just said yes. A lot. Like A LOT.

For me, exposure to leadership has come not from career settings, but from volunteering and civic service. And I have learned more from volunteering than I have from any job.

I was asked to join my first board when I was 23, if for no other reason than I was an approachable young person who just happened to have spent high school afternoons house-cleaning for a super aggressive Conservation Commission chair.

Little did I know that first “yes” would completely change my life.

A decade—and more than two dozen boards later—I started to connect the dots. I started to identify opportunities for collaboration, redundancy, and gaps in service areas. I found my voice, I found a sense of purpose, and I finally developed the ability to say no. Although I haven’t learned how to say no to Rob yet. Just kidding, Rob!

I am guessing there is a group of you who have been leading all along, and used this program to add another couple of tools to your tool belt. There is probably another group of you that are all hyped up and ready to dive headfirst into any project, no matter what pops up. I am guessing there is a group of you that is like, “Well this is great, but I really don’t need extra headaches right now.” And perhaps a final group of you that has no idea what the hell you are supposed to do with everything you just spent the better part of a year learning.

All of that is okay. The next steps are something you need to do at your own pace, but do me a favor.

Have a frank conversation with yourself. Do a solid gut check. If you are in this program, YOU are not your average disengaged person. If you are in this program it is because YOU have a story to tell, a talent to share, and a difference to make. YOU are here because someone supported you and because YOU were CHOSEN to be here.

The world needs YOU.

It may not feel like you have the power to do much. You may have imposter syndrome. I hear you.

But I have also seen what the smallest actions can do.

The library board you serve on where the librarian serves a child patron an after-school snack when that snack is the only food he will eat that day. The chamber board that supports the executive director who helps secure recovery funding for husband-and-wife business owners who are at risk of losing an entire life’s work. The community action board that helps a veteran experiencing homelessness find a warm, safe, stable place to live. The youth program that teaches an elementary school child living in poverty to use a screwdriver for the first time in her life, inspiring her to pursue a career in mechanical engineering.

Board meetings, community programming, and activism can feel like a dreadful slog, but those countless hours of service add up. They mean something.

And those collective hours contribute to a world that feels good to live in. One where you actively choose to give back. One where you are able to make someone else’s life just a little bit better. How different would the world be if each of us decided to dedicate some of our spare time to actively make someone else’s life better?

You have that choice.

I am so excited for each of you. You have choices to make. Work to do. And lives to change.

I cannot wait to see where you go and what you do.

And when you run into struggles, know that we are here to lend an ear, share a connection, and to support you in your journey. On that same note, do not forget the people who came to support you today. And do not forget your classmates. The bond you have formed with your cohort is real and when you experience moments you think no one else can understand, reach out to your peers. Grab a coffee. Share a hug. And get back at it.

The world needs you.

YOU just need to decide whether or not you are going to step up and accept the charge.

Just say yes.


24 New Graduates of Leadership Upper Valley

From small businesses and large, health care, municipal government, a church, and many other corners of the Upper Valley, 24 people came together on Wednesday, June 9, to complete a 10-month program to help them build the skills, knowledge, and personal networks to be effective leaders in the Upper Valley. The day-long event took place at the Vermont Institute for Natural Science pavillion in Quechee, VT.

Interested in joining next year’s class? Apply by June 15!

“The world needs you,” keynote speaker Monique Priestley, Vital Communities Board Chair, told the graduates at a late afternoon culminating event. Start small and start anywhere, she advised graduates who are wondering how to apply what they learned.

“I have seen what the smallest actions can do. The library board you serve on where the librarian serves a child patron an after school snack when that snack is the only food he will eat that day. The chamber board that supports the executive director who helps secure recovery funding for husband and wife business owners who are at risk of losing an entire life’s work. The community action board that helps a veteran experiencing homelessness find a warm, safe, stable place to live. The youth program that teaches an elementary school child living in poverty to use a screwdriver for the first time in her life, inspiring her to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. … The world needs you. You just need to decide whether or not you are going to step up and accept the charge.” Read the full text of Monique’s speech.

The 24 graduates began meeting for monthly, day-long sessions in September, when warm temperatures allowed them to meet in person, also at VINS. Successive sessions were a mix of virtual and in person. The sessions explored the topics of Education, Art and the Creative Economy, Health and Human Services, Economic Development, Justice, Transportation and Livable Communities, and Environment. Upper Valley leaders in those areas who helped plan the days included Joanne Roberts, Superintendent, SAU 88 Lebanon Schools; Jarvis Antonio Green, Founder and Producing Artistic Director, JAG Productions; Barbara Farnsworth, Manager, Community Health Improvement, Dartmouth-Hitchcock; Nancy Merrill, Director, Planning and Development, City of Claremont; Robert Sand, Founder, Center for Justice Reform, Vermont Law School; Karen Liot-Hill, Lebanon City Councillor and former Mayor; Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Manager, Vital Communities; and Hannah Gelroth, VINS Director, School Programs & Teacher Professional Development.

Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2021

Jane Clifford, Mascoma Bank

Jessica Clow, West Central Behavioral Health

Zachary Conaway, Dartmouth Hitchock Health

Janet Couture, Hanover Consumer Cooperative

Kathy Dunham-Bellavance, Geokon

Leon Dunkley, North Universalist Chapel Society (North Chapel)

Kimberley Gibbs, Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Susan Goodell, Otto & Associates, Inc.

Lynne Goodwin, City of Lebanon

Daynia Langlois, Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Nancy Lindahl, BAYADA Hospice

Jill Marshall, Jill Marshall Consulting (self-employed)

Ashleigh McFarlin, Claremont Savings Bank

Davis McGraw, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Shari McLaughlin, Gallagher, Flynn & Company, LLP

Steven Monteverdi, Hypertherm

Melissa Norton, Spark! Community Center

Rebecca Owens, City of Lebanon

Amanda Roberts, Mascoma Bank

Tamara Rockwell, Dartmouth-Hitchcock

Valerie Thompson, LISTEN Community Services

Celeste Wetherell, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Ashley Wood, Upper Valley Haven

Terra Wheeler, Red River