Current VCW Commissioners
VCW co-chair Kiah Morris | Burlington | she/her
Originally from Chicago, Kiah Morris lives in Vermont where she served in the general assembly as a State Representative from 2014-2016 and 2016-2018. She is the first African-American and person of color elected from Bennington County and the second African-American woman to be elected to the legislature in Vermont history. Her story of success and struggle have been covered internationally over four dozen media outlets including CNN, The Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, The Hill, Essence Magazine, Canadian Broadcasting Company, PBS, BBC Radio and Vice Media. She is an award-winning, in-demand trainer, speaker and presenter. She provides consultative services, workshops and presentations on issues of diversity, equity and leadership for organizations across the globe. Commissioner Morris currently serves as the Executive Director for Rights and Democracy Vermont. She is a Sisters on the Planet Ambassador for Oxfam America and is on the advisory councils for Emerge Vermont and Black Lives Matter Vermont. Commissioner Morris also holds an accomplished artistic career as an actress of stage, film and television, spoken word performance, as a singer, dancer and arts manager. As an arts advocate with a passion for community-based art, she has produced numerous special events, concerts and art exhibits during her career. Her work focuses on amplification of voices of the oppressed, issues of human rights and social justice. She is also the author of a recently published book of poetry "Life Lessons and Lyrical Translations of My Soul" and currently filming a documentary on race in Vermont titled "Color Lines in the Green Mountains" with Long Shot Productions.
VCW co-chair Lisa Senecal | Craftsbury | she/her
Lisa Senecal was appointed by Governor Scott in 2017 and elected VCW Chair in 2019. She is a communications professional whose current energies are dedicated to pro-democracy, and gender and racial equity efforts. An experienced entrepreneur with a background in media relations and marketing, her successful ventures include an award-winning children's entertainment company and a digital media consultancy. She has provided crisis communications, media relations, and digital media strategy for dozens of companies and organizations, gubernatorial and U.S. Senatorial campaigns, and statewide policy initiatives. Commissioner Senecal writes and speaks with an emphasis on issues of equity, equality, opportunity, and safety for women. Her perspectives and writing appear in a range of media, including as writer and co-host of Lincoln Project Television’s “We’re Speaking,” on NPR's Morning Edition and PBS News Hour, as well as in The Daily Beast, The New York Daily News, and USA Today. She also writes a monthly column for her local newspaper, the Stowe Reporter. In addition to serving as Chair of VCW, and serving on the board of The Clarina Howard Nichols Center, she is a founding partner in The Maren Group, a consultancy working with businesses, investors, and campaigns to identify and remedy business and cultural practices that increase risk of sexual harassment and other forms of gender discrimination.
Hazel Brewster | Stowe | she/her
Born and raised in Morrisville, Hazel Brewster is a 2019 graduate of the University of Vermont and has since earned a master’s degree in public policy and global affairs from the University of British Columbia. During her undergraduate career, she also studied at the University of Edinburgh, where she worked with Members of Scottish Parliament and researched the outmigration of women in rural Scotland. Commissioner Brewster has worked for the campaigns and in the offices of both Governor Phil Scott and Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray. She proudly interned for Senator Patrick Leahy and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England while at UVM. Brewster spent many years as a mentor for Little Bellas, an organization that empowers young women to reach their fullest potential through cycling. Accessibility and representation for women in athletics are deeply important to her as a former competitive mountain biker, a sport in which women continue to be underrepresented. She is now the Director of Public Relations for the statewide Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She resides in Stowe with her partner and their perfect pup, Luna, where they spend as much time in the woods on bikes and skis as possible.
Kellie B. Campbell, VCW co-chair | Georgia | she/her
Kellie Campbell, Ed.D., is the Chief Information Officer for the Vermont State Colleges System with a background in business, technology, education, leadership and management. She is playing an active role in the transformation efforts underway to ensure a sustainable public higher education model in our state. Commissioner Campbell’s volunteer time reflects her commitment to advancing women. She was recently an active committee member of The Boston Club, one of the largest communities of women focused around the advancement of women to top leadership roles across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Commissioner Campbell also recently served on the Executive Board for Vermont Women in Higher Education. This organization’s strategic priorities include providing opportunities for professional development, engaging in an inclusive community of women, and recognizing the successes of women. Commissioner Campbell recently earned her Doctor of Education, focused in higher education administration. She was a co-chair of the Vermont Commission on Women during the 2021-2022 year and is passionate about service to her community in this role.
Esther Charlestin | Middlebury | she/her
Esther Charlestin is a first generation Haitian American, born to immigrant parents Anita and Glachan Charlestin, who instilled the value of education in her. Through their encouragement, she completed a Bachelors in History & Communication, Masters in Corporate Communication and Public Relations, and Master of Arts in Teaching. “My hope is to serve by empowering women and using my voice to do so,” Charlestin says.
Brenda Churchill | Bakersfield | she/her
Brenda Churchill is a proud resident of her town, serving as a Selectboard member, a Justice of the Peace, zoning administrator, and American Rescue Plan Act fund manager. After working in telecommunications for 23 years, she was asked to serve as Legislative Liaison for the LGBTQIA Alliance of Vermont, becoming a well-known and influential presence in the State House. She was instrumental in helping to pass legislation related to ethnic and social equity studies, gender-neutral bathrooms, and adding a non-binary designation on Vermont birth certificates.
Alex Hilliard | Poultney | they/them
Alex Hilliard is a personal trainer, entrepreneur, and parent of three. Residing in Poultney, Commissioner Hilliard has big goals for the town, county, and state regarding diversity, athletics and outdoor recreation, and economic opportunities. Some steps they have taken to reach these goals include obtaining an MBA from Green Mountain College, being active in several civic organizations and steering committees furthering the local community, and nourishing a year-old personal training studio in town, VT AthletaFit. They have also shown their passion for improving the lives of women business owners by creating Lakes Region Women in Business Mixers to help connect self-identified women and non-binary individuals for a light-hearted and social networking experience. They are committed to reducing social inequality within the state, and are excited to bring lived experience as an LGBTQ+ and BIPOC individual. Joining the Commission on Women is another step towards accomplishing those goals. For leisure, they enjoy lifting weights, running, and reading.
Nancy Kaplan | Burlington | she/her
Nancy Kaplan is a Research Navigator at The University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. Her work connects Vermont clinicians and providers with the resources at the Northern New England Clinical and Translational Research Network to enable them to conduct health related research in their communities. Previously she served as Program Manager for the Vermont Department of Health’s You First program, providing breast and cervical cancer screenings, heart disease management, and health care system navigation for eligible low-income Vermonters. She also worked for Voices for Vermont's Children, a non-profit organization promoting public policy that enhances the lives of children and youth in Vermont. Commissioner Kaplan’s public service includes more than eight years on the Burlington Parks Recreation and Waterfront Commission, including six years as Chair. In addition, she served on Burlington City Council from 2009-2011 and was also Chair of the Board of Directors of Trinity Children’s Center, an inclusive preschool in Burlington. Upon reflection on her many years of public service Nancy wishes to extend a particular thanks to Carlen Finn, the former Executive Director at Voices for Vermont's Children for taking the time to introduce her to the importance of policy and advocacy. In her spare time, Nancy enjoys making maple syrup with her husband in their backyard in Burlington and wrangling her 5 kids.
Wendy Knight | Panton | she/her
Wendy Knight is a communications and marketing executive with over 20 years of government, corporate and entrepreneurial experience in advertising and marketing, food and beverage, healthcare, media, non-profit, and publishing industries. She's currently serving as a commissioner at the Department of Liquor and Lottery, appointed in December 2021. She had been the deputy commissioner since April 2021. She’s held leadership positions in economic development, workforce and marketing for Governor Scott's Administration, as Vermont Tourism and Marketing Commissioner, a strategic lead for the state's economic development initiative Think Vermont, and Vice Chair of the Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative, a private-public initiative to grow the economy and preserve our natural resources. She was also a consultant to On the Fly, a women-led collective supporting Vermont's hospitality and tourism businesses negatively impacted by COVID-19. A former freelance journalist for the New York Times she has written four non-fiction books and appeared on NPR, CNN, and ABC News. Commissioner Knight currently serves on the board of directors of the Vermont Outdoor Business Alliance, as well as their racial and diversity committee. She is a former Select Board Member for the town of Panton and a graduate of Cornell University.
Sarah Mell | Winooski | they/them
Sarah Mell is the Educator and Trainer of Inclusive Excellence at the University of Vermont's Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This position is designed to expand the work of the division across the UVM community of students, faculty, and staff. Prior to this position, Commissioner Mell served as the UVM WAGE (Women and Gender Equity) Center’s Education and Outreach Coordinator, work that explored the intersections of identities, power, and community as a means of advancing dialogue about gender equity and belonging. Commissioner Mell has worked not only in a variety of academic settings, but as an independent consultant, and in nonprofit organizations, including Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and HOPE Works. Commissioner Mell holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Vermont and an undergraduate degree from Western Michigan University. Their community service involvement includes past facilitation and volunteering for Outright Vermont, and board member, actor, singer, dancer and choreographer for multiple theater production companies, including Vermont Stage Company, Vermont Shakespeare Festival, and Middlebury Actors Workshop.
Ashley Messier | Jericho | she/her
Ashley Messier is the Executive Director of the Women’s Justice and Freedom Initiative. The Initiative supports and advocates for women, girls, transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people impacted by systems of oppression and is expressly committed to prison abolition. She is Chair of the Department of Corrections Monitoring Committee as well as Cochair of the VCW's Criminal Legal System Committee. Commissioner Messier’s years of community organizing, advocacy and direct experience with the criminal legal system inform her passionate and powerful approach to advocacy and abolition. She was previously incarcerated at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility. Commissioner Messier is a member of Vermont’s Human Trafficking Task Force. Her related work includes an active role in an Act 146 work group exploring using restorative justice in domestic and sexual violence and stalking cases. She has served as the Vermont Organizer for the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls. The Council is a network of formerly and currently incarcerated women and girls committed to reimagining communities and creating the shift from a criminal legal system to community-led human justice. Commissioner Messier served as a consultant and then as Lead Organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont’s Smart Justice, a campaign fighting in the legislatures, the courts, in the voting booth, and in the streets to end mass incarceration by addressing sentencing, bail and prosecutorial reform, as well as parole, release and re-entry reforms. She resides in Jericho and is Mom to a beautiful and blended group of kids because blood does not define family, love does.
Kim Nolan | Shelburne | she/her
Kim Nolan holds a Ph.D. in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and a M.Ed. from Boston University in Counseling Psychology. Commissioner Nolan is Founder and Executive Director of the Dignity Foundation, through which she facilitates mindfulness trainings, leadership coaching and keynote presentations; facilitates change management and cultural transformation initiatives within organizations; develops and delivers social justice, diversity & leadership workshops; and as a Buddhist Chaplain, provides spiritual care during life transitions, crisis, and the grief process. Commissioner Nolan is currently the Graduate Programs Director of UVM’s Business School. Previously, she was on the leadership team of Burlington’s City Market, served as Program Director of the Master’s program in Mindfulness Studies at Lesley University. She was Program Officer of the Mind and Life Institute, designing the Academy of Contemplative and Ethical Leadership, and also served as Department Chair of Integral Psychology at Burlington College, where she founded The Institute of Contemplative Studies. She has been a champion for women’s rights and is a lifelong activist for social change and an advocate for human rights.
Heidi Tringe | Montpelier | she/her
Heidi Tringe grew up in Montpelier and moved home in 2005 with her husband to raise their two children. She served on the senior staff of Governor Jim Douglas, and in a number of roles for the late U.S. Senator Jim Jeffords in his Washington, D.C. office and on his 2000 campaign. Commissioner Tringe was also Communications Director for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, and Legislative Affairs Director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is currently a Partner at MMR, LLC in Montpelier; serves on the Board of Trustees of Vermont College of Fine Arts, is co-founder of the start-up women’s networking and leadership effort, ElevateHer Vermont, and volunteers often in the Montpelier Roxbury Public School System and the Old Meeting House of East Montpelier.