Vital Communities Staff
— Sarah Jackson, Executive Director
Sarah Jackson joined Vital Communities as Executive Director in October 2020. She has more than 25 years’ international development experience – directing diverse program portfolios focused on academic exchanges, education, training, entrepreneurship, civil society, gender, agriculture, and climate change. She most recently served as Director of International Program Development for the Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities. Before that she was Executive Director of the Oman American Business Center and also spent nine years as Country Director in Oman for AMIDEAST, a leading American nonprofit organization engaged in international education, training and development in the Middle East and North Africa. She has also worked for NGOs in Egypt, Senegal, Kenya and the U.S. Complementing her professional work with local volunteering, Sarah has served the Randolph (VT) Region Re-Energized Program, working on issues including economic development, affordable housing, and childcare. In June 2020, she completed Vital Communities’ 10-month Leadership Upper Valley program. Other local involvements have included serving on the Capital Campaign and Grants Committees of the East Valley Community Group, East Randolph; and Randolph’s Climate Emergency Group. She and husband Robert Jackson (a writer and former high school history teacher) have two adult children. Beyond work, her hobbies include hiking, snowshoeing, gardening, cooking, playing the piano, reading, and playing with their golden retriever.
Climate Projects Coordinator
— Ana Mejia, Climate Projects Coordinator
Ana Mejia is the Climate Projects Coordinator at Vital Communities. She is a Southern California native and first arrived to the Upper Valley in 2018. Ana received her Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and her Master’s in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary, where she wrote her thesis on solar home affordability and energy efficiency programs for low income families. When she is not actively working towards creating sustainable communities, Ana enjoys swimming, cross-country skiing, birding, and trying out new dessert recipes with her KitchenAid mixer.
Food & Farm Coordinator
Food & Farm
Food & Farm
— Becka Warren, Food & Farm Coordinator
Part of Vital Communities' Food & Farm team since 2012, Becka fosters relationships that keep agriculture a daily part of community life in the Upper Valley. She works with current and future farmers, businesses, schools, and partners across Vermont and New Hampshire to build connections that support farm viability and keep our landscapes working. Becka lived in Seattle for many years, where she worked for the Washington State University Small Farms Program, Cascade Harvest Coalition, Seattle Tilth, and area vegetable farms. Becka is also a writer, founding and writing Ask Umbra at gristmagazine.com until 2009. She holds a BA from Brown University and lives in Hartland, Vermont, with her family.
Food & Farm Manager
Valley Quest, Food & Farm
Valley Quest, Food & Farm
— Beth Roy, Food & Farm Manager
Beth leads Vital Communities' Food & Farm team, including its Upper Valley Farm to School programming, and also oversees Valley Quest. Before joining Vital Communities, Beth worked in the environmental and place-based education fields for 17 years in various positions around New England including at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and as the Director of Education at the Nature Museum in Grafton, Vt. She previously served on the boards of the Vermont Science Teacher Association and the Vermont State-Wide Environmental Education Programs, a coalition of dozens of individuals and organizations promoting sustainability and environmental education in Vermont. Beth is a New Hampshire native and lives in Hartland, Vt., with her husband and two children, and serves on the Hartland School Board. When Beth is not working you will find her exploring the woods around her home with her family or cooking up a new taste test (made of local foods, of course!) for her children.
Transportation Program Manager
— Bethany Fleishman, Transportation Program Manager
Bethany Fleishman was born at the old Mary Hitchcock hospital in Hanover, N.H., grew up in West Hartford, Vt., and now lives in Hartford Village, where she can see the White River and the trains from her window. She has a biology degree from St. Lawrence University and has worked in public health outreach, as a line cook in San Francisco, a pastry chef in Hanover, and as a member of the Town of Hartford Selectboard. She serves on the board of directors for both Advance Transit and Upper Valley CarShare and is a lifelong bike commuter.
Assistant to the Executive Director, Flavors Coordinator
Food & Farm
Food & Farm
— Doreen Guillette, Assistant to the Executive Director, Flavors Coordinator
Doreen Guillette joined Vital Communities in January 2020 as the Flavors of the Valley Coordinator and Assistant to the Executive Director, with many years of administrative and management experience at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, self-employment, and volunteering. An Upper Valley native, Doreen spends most of her time and energy caring for her mini-farm and a large family in Norwich. She is a strong advocate for local community and is president of the Beaver Meadow Chapel, Trustee of the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse, and Co-Chair of the West Norwich Community Resilience Organization. Doreen enjoys hiking, kayaking, writing poetry, nature photography, and cooking meals that come from her own land.
— Erika Hoffman-Kiess, Vital Economy
Erika Hoffman-Kiess joined Vital Communities in 2020 – first as a Workforce Development consultant, facilitating a workforce discussion for the Corporate Council, and subsequently joining staff to support Covid-19 economic response activities. Erika brings years of experience in program design, management, and consulting for United States Agency for International Development and other donor funded international workforce and economic development. Most recently she facilitated a statewide series of Workforce Summits for the Regional Development Corporations of Vermont, developing policy guidance for the legislature and the executive branch. Erika grew up in Thetford, graduating from Thetford Academy, and moved back to the area in 2011 after many years spent living and working across the US and abroad. She holds a BA in Political Science from Goucher College and an MPA (Master of Public Administration) from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Erika lives in Thetford with her husband, Mike Kiess (also on VC staff) and enjoys spending time with extended family, exploring the natural environment and volunteering on two Boards serving international community development organizations, Tabitha USA (Cambodia) and Friends of Pakistan USA.
Bookkeeper, HR, Office Manager, Database Manager
— Jill Savage, Bookkeeper, HR, Office Manager, Database Manager
Jill Savage joined the Vital Communities staff in December 2019 after several years as an independent bookkeeper and business consultant and 15 years at Dartmouth College. Jill is a proud Upper Valley native, born and raised in New Hampshire and now making her home in Vermont. Jill is an artist and music lover, which inspires the work of the small business she runs with her husband. Jill received her Bachelor's Degree from Goddard College, where she studied art and philosophy and gained a deep appreciation for the ways in which social and ecological issues impact and are addressed in local communities. For many years, Jill has started her day by reading the Community Discussion Lists.
AmeriCorps VISTA Energy Savings Outreach Specialist
— Julia Guy, AmeriCorps VISTA Energy Savings Outreach Specialist
Julia Guy is the AmeriCorps VISTA Energy Savings Outreach Specialist at Vital Communities. A frequent visitor, Julia is glad to make the Upper Valley a home. Originally from Binghamton, New York, Julia graduated from Skidmore College in 2019 with a Bachelors of Science in Theatre and a minor in Environmental Studies. Before moving to the Upper Valley, Julia was working for a low- waste, plastic-free home goods brand in Brooklyn. When she’s not fighting climate change, you can find Julia hiking and afterward indulging in a soft pretzel with plenty of mustard.
Workforce Housing Coordinator
— Mike Kiess, Workforce Housing Coordinator
Mike Kiess joined Vital Communities in July of 2018 as the Workforce Housing Coordinator, working to develop and strengthen workforce housing throughout the Upper Valley. Mike previously oversaw organizational development for Veteran Corps of America, a federal contractor in the field of emergency and disaster response. He moved to the Upper Valley in 2011 after years spent living and working across the US and abroad, serving as a Navy submarine officer aboard the USS Lewis and Clark, an administrative director for the United States Peace Corps, and as a project manager in the paper and steel businesses. Mike is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and holds an MBA from Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. He lives in Thetford with his wife, who grew up in the area, and enjoys mountain biking, volunteering on the town Energy Committee, and encouraging people to try new things and do their best.
Food & Farm and Local First Coordinator
Local First, Food & Farm
Local First, Food & Farm
— Nancy LaRowe, Food & Farm and Local First Coordinator
Nancy joined Vital Communities as the Food & Farm Coordinator in 2014. She works to support and grow our local food system and economy. Nancy has lived, worked, and farmed in the Upper Valley for more than 25 years and believes our community is healthier and stronger when our connections to food and the farms that produce it stay vital.
Nancy's informal job title is Farmer-in-Residence: she also runs a pasture-based cattle farm in Norwich. Nancy is on the Board of the Norwich Farmers' Market and a retired Norwich volunteer firefighter and EMT. She loves puttering in the garden, hiking with her dog, and visiting farmers' markets.
— Rachel Darrow, Finance Manager
Rachel Darrow joined Vital Communities in November 2016 after two years as Finance Manager of Opera North. Prior to moving to Lyme, N.H., she worked for more than eight years with the Greensboro Jewish Federation in Greensboro, N.C., most recently serving as Director of Finance and Human Resources. She graduated summa cum laude with a BA in English from the University of Maryland University College and an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College. Rachel currently serves on the United Way Campaign Cabinet, dances with The Raqs Salaam Dance Theater, and enjoys spending time with her three goats.
— Rebecca Bailey, Communications Manager
Becky joined Vital Communities in June 2020. In her decades in the Upper Valley, she has variously been a Valley News staff writer, a public school music teacher, and a writer and media specialist for the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth. She and her husband have lived for 30 years in a solar electric home in Strafford, where Becky also deacons at a church and is active in local choral music and theater. She loves all things human-powered, including bikes, reel mowers, and "umbrella" laundry dryers. She has BA in journalism from San Francisco State University and an elementary teaching certificate from Upper Valley Teacher Institute.
Leadership Upper Valley Manager, Director of Development
— Rob Schultz, Leadership Upper Valley Manager, Director of Development
Rob Schultz is the Leadership Upper Valley Manager and Director of Development at Vital Communities. Most recently, he served as Area Coordinator for Granite United Way in the Upper Valley Region. Rob was Executive Director of COVER Home Repair in White River Junction for 9 years. Before working at COVER, Rob was Executive Director for the Farm & Wilderness Foundation for 8 years; helped start a corporate training center for PT Timah in Sumatra Indonesia; and ran programs for Outward Bound in Minnesota, Texas, and New Mexico. He is a graduate of Earlham College and has done graduate work at University of Maryland in International Political Economy. He lives in Hanover with his partner Diane. He sings with Thetford Chamber Singers and is an avid carpenter, cellist, wilderness traveler, and gardener.
Valley Quest Coordinator
— Sandy Gmur, Valley Quest Coordinator
Sandy joined Vital Communities in Fall 2019 to coordinate Valley Quest. Sandy moved back to the East Coast after 32 years in Santa Cruz, CA, and is thrilled to be involved with an organization so interconnected with the issues and services that make the Upper Valley region a vibrant, collaborative, and future-thinking community. Sandy has a BA in Anthropology from Vassar College and worked for several years in Somalia and Greece. She later worked in school administration and then as a Senior Program Associate for the nonprofit Life Lab. Sandy is a founding member of a cohousing community in Santa Cruz and now lives at Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland. She is an Executive Committee member of the Sierra Club Upper Valley and volunteers with the Connecticut River Conservancy. Her nurture away from work comes from taking long walks, skiing, cooking, gardening, bread baking, and enjoying time with friends and family.
Energy Program Manager
— Sarah Brock, Energy Program Manager
Sarah Brock joined Vital Communities in 2013 as our Energy Program Manager. Through her work Sarah provides support for our region’s 40+ local energy committees, engaging with dozens of volunteers and clean energy businesses in programs like Solarize Upper Valley, Weatherize Upper Valley, and the Upper Valley Green Real Estate Network. Prior to joining the Vital Communities team, Sarah was an Environmental Philanthropy Associate with the High Meadows Fund, a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation. Sarah lives in Warner, New Hampshire, with her husband and daughter. When she's not busy advocating for energy efficiency, Sarah enjoys playing the trombone and taking walks in her backwoods to look for signs of New Hampshire's abundant wildlife.