ABOUT THE COMMISSION
The Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) is an independent non-partisan state commission dedicated to advancing rights and opportunities for women in Vermont. The Commission is authorized by Vermont statute.
In its work, VCW:
Acts as advisor and information source for legislative and executive branches and other policy makers on issues affecting women
Serves as an educational resource by conducting research, producing publications, and coordinating conferences and workshops
Brings together diverse groups and engages in partnerships to consider issues of interest to women and take action
Provides the most local and most appropriate information and referrals to the public on matters related to women and families
VCW COMMISSIONER EXPECTATIONS AND TIME COMMITMENT
Our typical meeting time is on the second Wednesday of the month from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., usually in Montpelier, and we generally don’t meet in July and August.
Some of the key things commissioners are expected to do are:
Attend commission meetings regularly and be prepared to actively participate in discussions and contribute to the direction and policies of the Commission
Serve on at least one committee
Understand, support, and represent the positions and policies of the commission to the public
Promote the Commission by being available to speak to groups and the media, distribute Commission and other related materials, help host and attend Commission-related events
Network with other organizations and serve as a liaison between the Commission, your region, and the state
There is no per diem compensation provided for Commissioners, but they are reimbursed for travel at the state-approved rate.
VCW is made up of 16 commissioners, appointed as follows:
8 appointed by the Governor (no more than four may be from any one political party)
3 appointed by the Speaker of the House (no more than two may be from any one political party)
3 appointed by the Senate Committee on Committees (no more than two may be from any one political party)
1 appointed by the Vermont Democratic Party
1 appointed by the Vermont Republican Party
No more than two commissioners may be members of the Legislature. Commissioners serve four-year terms. The terms are staggered, with four expiring each year.
The VCW statute indicates that “members of the commission shall be drawn from throughout the state and from diverse racial, ethnic, religious, age, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and shall have had experience working toward the improvement of the status of women in society.”
We would characterize the most important requirement for serving on the Commission as a commitment to actively and visibly working to reduce discrimination and increase opportunities for women in Vermont.
Decisions about appointment are made solely by the appointing authorities. We are happy to pass along names and applications to them, contact us here, or you may apply directly.
Governor Phil Scott
Please apply through the link on the Governor’s website:
Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson
Please send a resume and a letter of interest (which includes your political party affiliation, or if appropriate, that you are independent) to:
Office of the Speaker
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633
Commissioner photo credits: Mary Claire Carroll (2013).
Chair of the Vermont Commission on Women
Commissioner Merrill is a Certified Public Accountant, and is responsible for the Audit and Accounting practices of Montgomery & Merrill, PC, her woman-owned public accounting firm in Burlington. In that role, she works primarily with not-for-profit organizations, small businesses, and start-up businesses, assisting the ownership and boards of directors in the use and interpretation of financial statements, as well as providing audit and other financial statement services. Commissioner Merrill completed Leadership Champlain, a training institute of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, in 1992, was a Vermont delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1995, attended Business and Professional Women/USA National Leadership Institutes from 1998 to 2002, is a former member of the boards of directors of the Vermont Council for Rural Development (1999 to 2004) and the Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women. During 2000-2001, she served as Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women state president and was a member of the national board of directors for the Business and Professional Women/USA. Commissioner Merrill also served four years as a member of the BPW/USA national finance committee. She was recently elected to serve a fourth term as Chair of the Vermont Commission on Women, and serves on the City of Burlington Audit Task Force, a five member advisory group to the City’s Audit Committee. Commissioner Merrill was awarded the Business and Professional Women/USA Outstanding State President of the Year, 2001, Vermont Federation of Business and Professional Women Woman of the Year, 2007, and Girl Scouts of the Green & White Mountains Champion Award, 2010. She earned a Masters of Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology, and a Bachelors of Arts, summa cum laude, from William Smith College. Commissioner Merrill lives in Jericho, Vermont, and is the mother of two grown sons.
Commissioner Bailey is an attorney and has recently retired as the Casework Coordinator in Senator Bernie Sanders' Burlington Office. She worked in constituent advocacy since 1997 with primary interests in both economic and social justice. She is the 2014 recipient of the Greater Boston Federal Executive Board’s Congressman John Joseph Moakley Award for Exemplary Public Service. Prior to her work with the Senator, she spent several years as a Staff Attorney at Vermont Legal Aid, Inc. and as an Assistant City Attorney for the City of Burlington. She served as Vice Chair of the Vermont Coalition for the Equal Rights Amendment, and as Chair of the Women's Division of the Vermont Bar Association. She was an original founder of the Burlington Community Land Trust (BCLT), and has been a member of the BCLT Board of Directors. She has served as a Board Member of the Committee On Temporary Shelter (COTS), and was a long time member of the Burlington Women's Council. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from Lincoln Memorial University, a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University and a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
Commissioner Boland's interest in women's issues began with her involvement in Vermont's efforts to pass the national equal rights amendment in the early 80's. She has had an active and continuing interest in the social and economic wellbeing of women and girls through her work with senior management teams in Vermont K-16 education and state government. Commissioner Boland is currently the human resources director for St. Johnsbury Academy. She was Vermont’s Commissioner of Human Resources (formerly Personnel) from 1997-2000 where she was a member of the Governor's Affirmative Action Council. Numerous community and civic involvements include as a Justice of the Peace and member of the Board of Civil Authority for her hometown of Wheelock. She holds a B.F.A. in photo illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology and an M.A. in Education Administration and Supervision from Johnson State College. Commissioner Boland served as Chair of the Commission's Education and Human Development committee for many years and is now participating as a VCW representative on the Change the Story project steering committee.
of Saxtons River
Carol Buchdahl, R.N., M.A. retired as the Manager of Leadership Development and Organizational Learning for the Continuing Education and Workforce Development (CEWD ) Department of Vermont Technical College. Her work with CEWD involved facilitating and consulting for businesses and organizations throughout New England. She continues in this role as a consultant for state government agencies and private companies. Commissioner Buchdahl served in the Vermont Legislature from 1997-1999 as a representative from Georgia, and was Clerk of the House Commerce Committee. She presently serves on the Board of the Greater Falls Warming Shelter and was Secretary and Co-Chair of the Development Committee of Main Street Arts in Saxtons River. Commissioner Buchdahl is the current Chair of VCW's Health, Safety and Civil Rights Committee. She and her husband David spend as much of their spare time as they can with their five grandchildren.
Commissioner Dennett was born in Beirut, Lebanon, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat and an English teacher. Though she grew up in Massachusetts, Commissioner Dennett later returned to Lebanon with her mother and completed her last two years of high school in Beirut. She returned to the U.S. to get her BA at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, and went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in art history at Post Pius XII Institute in Florence, Italy. She then returned to Beirut and became a journalist, first as a roving correspondent with the weekly English language feature magazine, The Middle East Sketch, and later as a reporter for the Beirut Daily Star. Ms. Dennett moved to New York City in 1975 following the outbreak of civil war in Lebanon. While working the UN beat she met her future husband, investigative journalist and author Gerard Colby. Dennett and Colby spent the next 18 years researching and writing for national, international and Vermont news sources, including writing a book on the genocide of Amazonian Indians, “Thy Will be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon” published by HarperCollins in 1995. The couple moved to Vermont in 1984 and in her spare time, Dennett became involved in local political and community issues. In 1986, she served as the chair of the ERA Task Force for Vermont NOW (National Organization for Women). From 1990-1994 she served on the board of the Franklin County Family Center, and was president of the board in 1994. She also “read for the law” in Vermont’s legal clerkship program and became a licensed attorney in 1997. Since 2002, she has held the position of “Volunteer in Politics” on the Executive Committee of the Vermont AFL-CIO. The position is designed to advance women’s leadership in the labor movement. In 2008 and 2010, she ran for Vermont Attorney General. She also co-taught with Gerard Colby “Introduction to Politics” and “International Economic Development” at Johnson State College. She is currently focusing on her law practice with an emphasis on family law, personal injury, medical malpractice, and consumer fraud cases. Much of her free time (other than writing and caring for two granddaughters) is spent implementing a new program for empowering incarcerated women through education and entrepreneurship.
Commissioner Dunham is Vice President and Creative Director of Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home in Manchester. She has a degree in Illustration from Art Center College of Design in California and has worked for thirty-five years as a producer and designer in the themed entertainment industry, including for Walt Disney Imagineering, Sony Development, and MCA Universal. Commissioner Dunham is a 2007 graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute, is on the board of the Snelling Center for Government, and is a charter member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Commissioner Finn retired as Barre Town Clerk-Treasurer in 2000. She volunteers for many state and community organizations in addition to VCW, and is currently: member of the Barre Town Republican Committee; Finance Commissioner for the Washington County Republican Committee; Honorary State Regent and Past Vice President General for the Vermont Society Daughters of the American Revolution; and serves as a Vermont Historical Library volunteer. She serves on the Barre Town/City Flags for Veterans Committee, placing thousands of flags in seven Barre area cemeteries each spring, honoring veterans back to the Revolutionary War. In the past, she served as President of the Vermont Town Clerk-Treasurer Association, President of the Vermont Government Finance Officers Association, President of American Association of University Women's Barre Branch. She was also a member of the New England Municipal Clerks Association, a regional advisory council member of the UVM Extension Service, and served on the Historical Records Advisory Board.
Deborah T. Bucknam
Commissioner Bucknam has been practicing law in Vermont since 1979, and was licensed to practice in New Hampshire in 2005. She has practiced in all courts in Vermont, including the Vermont Supreme Court, and all divisions of Vermont Superior Court, including the Probate Division, Family Division and Criminal Division, as well as Vermont Federal District Court. She has litigated hundreds of contested matters, including personal injury, civil rights, voter fraud, land use, contract disputes, tax appeals, family and guardianship cases, criminal defense, and administrative proceedings before various Vermont administrative boards. Commissioner Bucknam graduated from Vermont Law School, cum laude, in 1979. She is a member of the Vermont Bar Association, the New Hampshire Bar Association, and the Federalist Society. She received a certificate from the Harvard Law School Negotiation Institute in Advanced Negotiation. She is a member of the Board of the Thaddeus Stevens School. Last year she ran an unsuccessful campaign for Vermont Attorney General, after winning the nomination in the Republican primary. Commissioner Bucknam’s husband, Charles served on the Vermont Commission on Women in the 1970’s. The Bucknams reside in Walden and have two daughters, thirteen grandchildren, and one great grandchild.
Commissioner Kornheiser comes to her work with a passion for community voice, leadership, and most importantly, to support communities to own and tell their own stories — understanding and agreeing to a shared vision and outcomes. Currently the Early Childhood Action Plan Director with Building Bright Futures, and recently with Promise Communities for the State of Vermont, Emilie Kornheiser supports communities to identify and achieve shared outcomes for young children and families. Before a career transition to local service, Emilie was an international development consultant with a private firm working primarily under federal contract. In this position, Emilie strategized, trained, brokered, and evaluated partnerships between private corporations and government agencies to meet humanitarian and community development goals. She has worked overseas promoting democracy and supporting small business development, in various positions at community-based organizations serving vulnerable populations throughout Vermont, and started her own small business in Brattleboro. Currently, son lives in Brattleboro in a converted barn with her son Solomon, her partner John, and a ridiculous mutt named Kaiser. She is involved with her local Democratic committee, co-chair of a feminist action network, Vice President of the board of the Brattleboro Food Coop, a town meeting representative, a founding member of the Windham County Action Network, and generally involved in the grassroots and grass-tops of her community. She wishes that she kayaked, hiked, and gardened, but she actually just likes to cook dinner for her friends and talk late into the night.
Nancy E. LaVarnway
Commissioner LaVarnway is a Career Development Specialist at the South Burlington High School Career Development Center where she designs and implements programs providing educational experiences in both pre-professional (school-to-work) and community (Volunteers in Action) settings. She is experienced in all aspects of career development and experiential education in the public and private sectors including eighteen years in higher education, seven years in technical education and twenty-five in public (secondary) education. Prior to this work, she was the Academic Internship Coordinator at Saint Michael’s College, and worked in Career Development and Cooperative Education at Norwich University. Commissioner LaVarnway operated her own consulting business, CDS - Career Development Specialists, specializing in career counseling to individuals, businesses and educational institutions. Since 1994, Commission LaVarnway has been a member of the professional organization titled New England Association for Cooperative Education and Field Experience (NEACEFE). In addition, she holds an Honorary Life Member Award for Outstanding Leadership Contribution from that organization. Commissioner LaVarnway holds a M.Ed. from Norwich University and a BA from Westfield State University, Massachusetts with three educational endorsements in Cooperative Career and Technical Education Coordinator (7-12), Social Science (7-12), Physical Education (K-12) and a HQT (Highly Qualified Teacher) status in Social Studies. Commissioner LaVarnway serves as VCW's Chair of the Education and Human Development committee. In 2016, Commissioner LaVarnway was awarded the Frederick H. Tuttle Award from the South Burlington Rotary. The award is given in recognition of significant contributions to her vocation the South Burlington Community. Most significant to the Rotary, the recipient exemplifies the Rotarian ideal of “Service above Self”.
of St. Albans
Commissioner Martel is employed as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Hagan, Rinehart, & Connolly Pediatricians in Burlington. She graduated from Bellows Free Academy in 2005, Vermont Technical College's LPN Program in 2006, and Community College of Vermont in 2014. She is a Past President of Franklin County Business and Professional Women (BPW), and a member of the Franklin County Past Presidents Club. Commissioner Martel is currently serving as President of Vermont Business and Professional Women. This statewide organization strives to achieve equality in the workplace through advocacy, education, and information. She was previously employed as a LPN at Mousetrap Pediatrics, as a CNC Machinist for Superior Technical Ceramics, and as a LPN at Birchwood Terrace Healthcare in Burlington. During her high school and college years she worked as a Licensed Nursing Assistant at Redstone Villa in St. Albans. Commissioner Martel plans to open a hospice and palliative care facility in the near future.
Commissioner Moulton is the Chief Executive Officer of Main Street Landing in Burlington, Vermont. For the past thirty years she has devoted her career to the redevelopment of Burlington's Waterfront. Main Street Landing comprises over 250,000 square feet of new and renovated space, reflecting a new model of development focused on ecological integrity, economic security, individual empowerment and social well-being, recognized throughout the country as the way of the future for design, development, construction, and good business practice in the area of built-environment development. Commissioner Moulton lectures across the country on her work, leadership, and sustainable practices. Commissioner Moulton has Chaired the Boards of the Burlington Parking and Transportation Council, Burlington Business Association, Vermont Retail Association, The Intervale Center, College Steps, and the Vermont Folklife Center. She has served on the Boards of the YMCA, Lund Family Center, Chittenden East School District, Opportunities Credit Union, Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the Orton Family Foundation, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Audubon Vermont, and the Vermont Arts Council. She was a member of the Vermont Business Roundtable, and co-chaired capital campaigns for the Lund Center and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. She presently serves on the Boards of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, the Vermont Folklife Center, Vermont Main Street Alliance, and Special Olympics Vermont. She was appointed by Governor Shumlin to serve on the Vermont Pathways From Poverty Council in 2014. She was the Co-Chair of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign for 2011. Commissioner Moulton served on the Regional Affairs Committee of the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce, and has been a strong advocate for the return of passenger rail to Union Station in Burlington. She served on the Advisory Councils of the Vermont Green Building Network, University of Vermont’s 2020 “Leading By Design” Sustainability Task Force, the Childhood Hunger Council of Chittenden County, Spectrum Youth Center, and Patient Choices Vermont. She participated on the development and ultimate steering committee for the Burlington Legacy Project. She serves as a Trustee of the Community Sailing Center. She hosts a live TV show on CCTV’s Channel 17 entitled “On the Waterfront with Melinda” where monthly, she interviews people serving their community through extraordinary vision, commitment, and hard work to make Vermont a better place to live. Commissioner Moulton is Chair of VCW's Economic Equity and Security committee. (Photo credit: Gillian Randall)
Marybeth Christie Redmond
Commissioner Redmond's work and career have focused on utilizing writing and public communications to raise up the voices of women, girls, and the most marginalized residing in our state. She currently serves as a partner in the Vermont Story Lab project, training nonprofit communicators to weave storytelling through the fabric of their organizations to increase impact and reach. For six years (2003-2009), she taught journalism at St. Michael's College, helping undergraduates write and report for digital media with a focus on underserved communities. From 2010-2014, she co-founded a program for Vermont’s incarcerated women called writing inside VT, which utilizes writing as a tool for self-change. This effort resulted in a nationally published book of the women’s poetry and prose, entitled “Hear Me, See Me” in 2013. Commissioner Redmond also directed the development and communications efforts at Vermont Works for Women, a nonprofit organization training vulnerable women for meaningful, livable wage employment (2013-2016). While there, she served on the steering committee of Change the Story VT, an innovative partnership between Vermont Works for Women, the Vermont Women's Fund, and the Vermont Commission on Women that aligns policy, program and philanthropy to fast-track women’s economic status in the state. Prior to making Vermont her home in 2003, Commissioner Redmond worked as an on-air TV reporter in Connecticut, New York and Indiana. She holds a master’s degree from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a bachelor’s from the University of Notre Dame. She currently lives in Essex with her husband, Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, and their son Liam.
Commissioner Ryan is a comedic speaker, author, and financial education expert. Thanks to a grant created by Senator Bernie Sanders, he served credit unions statewide for four years as Vermont's Financial Literacy Champion, providing free financial education for high school and college students in our state. Realizing he had found his calling to be a financial education advocate, Commissioner Ryan enhanced his message by adding the skill sets of professional stand-up comedian and storyteller. This unique comedic approach to financial literacy quickly gained him national attention, and in 2012 he was named one of the top 10 youth money presenters in America. He has collaborated with the Girl Scouts of America, National Geographic Television, United Way, and numerous student leadership organizations, as well as banks, credit unions and colleges across the country. He has reached more than 200,000 high school students, college students and adults with the message: your ability to manage money directly affects your ability to have the life you want. His comedy fundraiser series has donated over $150,000 to good causes. Commissioner Ryan's speaking, writing and research all demonstrate that financial skills are fundamental not only to career satisfaction, but to the work of building happier lives. He is a passionate advocate for economic equality, career fulfillment, and consumer protection. Colin has lived in Vermont since 2004, and is married to the most amazing woman in the world. They have a dog named Jake.
Commissioner Secrest is an executive coach and leadership consultant who inspires the very best in her clients. She founded the Women’s Leadership Circles of Vermont, an intensive leadership program, and co-authored a chapter on women’s leadership in the book Leading and Managing in the Social Sector. In 2016 she was invited to speak at the International Global Leadership Conference on the success of the Leadership Circles program. Commissioner Secrest pairs experience working on four continents with a passionate, community-minded approach, helping her clients enhance effectiveness, achieve goals, and deepen personal fulfillment. Her expertise includes executive coaching, team development, leadership training, and women in leadership. Whether working with individuals or organizations, her goal is to enable her clients to live and lead from core values in order to make a more meaningful impact at work, at home, and in communities. She is proud that Watershed Coaching is a certified B (Benefit) Corp. Commissioner Secrest believes that life is an adventure, and that growth happens when we operate in our “stretch zone.” She has organized unguided rafting expeditions north of the Arctic Circle and backpacked through Siberia. In her youth, she was a competitive gymnast who trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Currently on the faculty of Marlboro College Graduate School, she has a master’s degree in Leadership and Management from SIT Graduate Institute, and an undergraduate degree from Villanova University. A dual citizen, she lived three years in Soviet-occupied Lithuania and worked at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C. She now serves as the Republic of Lithuania’s Honorary Consul to the State of Vermont, working to promote economic and cultural ties. Commissioner Secrest’s most profound adventure has been parenthood, raising her daughters with her husband Jon. In 2003, she and her family moved from Washington, DC to Brattleboro, Vermont to support their goal of living in a small and vibrant community, close to nature.
Commissioner Senecal is a marketing and communications professional and small business entrepreneur. A fourth-generation Vermonter, she attended Norwich University as a civilian student. It was there that she developed her voice as a women’s advocate, being one of only a few women in most of her classes – an experience she considers invaluable both personally and professionally. She has launched and run three successful small businesses including an award-winning children’s entertainment company and a New Media issue advocacy consulting firm. Today, she divides her time between large-scale event management, writing with an emphasis on issues of particular importance to women, and communications consulting. The mother of two teenaged sons, Commissioner Senecal has been volunteering in her sons’ schools for more than a decade, serves on the Board of Trustees for the Stowe Education Fund, recently concluded work leading a year-long study on the viability of converting public schools to independent schools, leads fundraising initiatives for a variety of organizations, and served on the board of the Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley.
THANK YOU FORMER COMMISSIONERS!
Rep. Lynn Batchelor
Dr. Felicia Kornbluh
Shambulia Gadsden Sams
Marion Milne* - watch a special youtube video about Marion Milne by Jeff Kaufman
Margaret "Peg" Martin
Ann Hagman Cardinal
Mary Claire Carroll*
Sen. Ann Cummings*
(* reappointed to serve multiple terms)
carolyn Brown, MDBecky Jo Cook
Kelley Beckwith Gilmour
Rep. Maxine Jo Grad (Chair)*
Rep. Lisa O’Neil
Janaki Natarjan Tschannerl
Victoria Young (Chair)*
(* reappointed to serve multiple terms)
Sen. Mary Ann Carlson
Judge Amy Davenport
Billi Gosh (Chair)*
Rep. Ann Pugh*
Rev. Jane Wilson
(* reappointed to serve multiple terms)
Robert Babcock, Jr.
Bennet (Miriam) Bell
Charles Bucknam, Jr.
Judge Alan Cheever*
Mrs. Dean C. Davis
Gloria Gil (Chair)*
Sen. Margaret Hammond
Betty Jones (Chair)*
Judy McEntyre (Chair)
Lenore McNeer (Chair)
Georgiana Miranda, Esq.
Mrs. Berl Morrill
Phoebe Morse, Esq.
Mrs. Frances Patry
Karen Kent Robinson (Chair)
Lt. Gov. Barbara Snelling
Sylvia Stock Mayer
Jeanne Van Vlandren*
(* reappointed to serve multiple terms)
Col. W. J. Burke*
Beverly Cassara (Chair)
Ruth Colombo (Chair)
Sister Mary Edmund
Mrs. Kirtland Keve*
Dean Thomas King
Gov. Madeleine Kunin*
Mrs. Clement Moyse
Mrs. Don Munger
Alden Norton, Jr
Evelyn Patnod (Chair)*
Sister Rose Rowan
Rev. Wallace Short*
Rosemary Stark (Chair)Mrs. Wallace Turner
Mrs. Alfred Zeller*
(* reappointed to serve multiple terms)
Original Commissioners - 1964
Col. W. J. Burke
Mrs. Kirtland Keve
Dean Thomas King
Mrs. Stanley McKenney
Mrs. Clement Moyse
Mrs. Don Munger
Sister Rose Rowan
Rev. Wallace Short
Mrs. Wallace Turner
Mrs. Alfred Zeller