Board of Directors
Ronda Berns is the new Vice President of Tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She has been in sales management in the hospitality industry for 30 plus years. Her most recent positions include National Sales Manager at Stowe Mountain Lodge and as the Director of Sales at Topnotch Resort. Ronda previously held the Executive Director position for the Vermont Convention Bureau where she was instrumental in rebuilding this statewide organization through collaboration and partnerships.
Ronda will lead the Tourism Department for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce through the production and advertising sales of the print and online official statewide vacation publications. She will also represent the Vermont Chamber membership in the State House on issues concerning the tourism and hospitality industries. Ronda lives with her husband in Elmore, Vermont.
Justin A. Brown joined the firm as an associate in July 2016. He practices in both federal and state trial and appellate courts, and before administrative agencies and boards. At the firm, Justin represents businesses and individuals in complex civil litigation, white collar and felony criminal defense, and internal investigations.
Prior to joining the firm, Justin was an associate at the Boston office of the global law firm DLA Piper LLP (US). While at DLA, Justin represented clients in complex business disputes, health care fraud, and land-use litigation. He also regularly conducted investigations for Fortune 500 pharmaceutical clients both in the United States and internationally relating to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and compliance.
Following law school, Justin clerked for the Honorable Peter W. Hall of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and the Honorable William J. Lavery and the Honorable Francis X. Hennessy of the Connecticut Appellate Court.
Mr. Casella brings broad experience in both the private and public sectors, particularly in the field of Waste and Recycling. Mr. Casella has been a member of numerous industry-related and community service-related state and local boards and commissions, including the Green Up Vermont, Vermont Sports Hall of Fame, Wheels for Warmth. He has also served on various state task forces, serving in an advisory capacity to the Vermont Business Roundtable on economic development. Mr. Casella serves in thecampaign committee of Governor Phil Scott. Mr. Casella holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from West Virginia University and a Bachelor of Arts & Science in Communication from West Virginia University.
I started working for Chittenden Bank in 1990. For the last 21 years, I have worked with US SBA (Small Business Administration) loans in VT. In 2011, I also took over providing SBA loans for Maine and New Hampshire along with Vermont. I live in Danvillewith my husband Thom, who is a teacher at Twinfield, and my two children Madison and Porter. I participated in Green Up Days as a child growing up in Island Pond and have fond memories of Green Up Day.
Erin Desautels is Principal at Vermont Small Business Accelerators, LLC and specializes in business and economic development. A native Vermonter, Erin assists small businesses and individuals with specific challenges. Ms. Desautels attended Castleton StateCollege nursing program and worked as an operating room nurse. She was previously the Member Engagement and Events Director at Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce. Erin is also very actively involved in assisting the non-profit community and serves on several boards. Erin resides in South Burlington, VT with her family and enjoys running and hiking.
Rachel Feldman serves as the Public Relations Specialist for VSECU, a credit union for everyone who lives or works in Vermont. Her career path has taken her from newsrooms to conference rooms to classrooms to the State House to strategy rooms to board rooms.
Fresh out of Northwestern University with a B.S. in Journalism, Feldman moved to Vermont in 2006 and promptly took a job as a reporter and copy editor for the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Some say it was getting her car stuck in a ditch that caused Feldman to stay in Vermont, but it was truly her passion for storytelling and “liv[ing] deliberately,” as Thoreau wisely put it. After a year in print news, Feldman went to broadcast fulltime at WCAX-TV where she worked as a news producer, reporter and anchor. During her time at WCAX-TV, she was chosen as a reporter for MTV's Street Team covering the 2008 election from the perspective of Vermont’s younger voting demographic for MTV and the Associated Press.
International work tempted her away from the anchor desk, and Feldman spent a year in Israel on a teaching fellowship program through the Ministry of Education. During that time she served as program liaison to the Prime Minister’s Office and reported on the program for Israeli media outlets.
Feldman returned to Vermont and worked as the Marketing and Communications Director for the Vermont Arts Council, then moved to the State House as Chief of Staff for then-Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. She served in that role for three years, during which she was named one of Vermont Business Magazine’s Rising Stars in 2014. When her boss was elected governor, Gov. Scott hired her to his senior staff as the Senior Director of Boards, Commissions and Public Service.
In her spare time, Feldman serves as a member of the Capitol Complex Commission and on the boards of the Central Vermont Humane Society and Onion River Community Access, as well as volunteering with numerous public service organizations. She’s also an actor with Vermont’s most frightening Halloween event, Dead NORTH, speaks three languages and is working on learning a fourth, but has given up on learning “Emoji-speak.”
An avid bookworm, kayaker, gardener and writer, Feldman lives in Middlesex, Vt., with her fiancé and their incredible dog, Frankie.
Ara Hagan is President/Creative Strategist of Hagan Associates, a full service marketing firm in Essex Junction, VT. Ara is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and specializes in creative strategy, market research, media planning, design, and understanding user experience (UX). She and her family live in Essex Junction. They enjoy being outdoors skiing, mountain biking, climbing, and hiking.
Twenty five plus years of marketing expertise –building, executing and evaluating messages, products and programs for internationally recognized consumer brands in higher education, and specialty outdoor, snow sports, sporting goods, destination travel/resort industries.Exceptionally skilled in the product to market process from research to product/program development, sell in to sell through, POP/merchandising, advertising, public relations, and ROI analysis. Successfully launched and directed many first to market concepts and products, including entering new markets in Europe, Asia and Scandinavia.Well versed in small business environment as well as large corporation structure; adept in planning, communication, team-building, project management, budgeting, and financial analysis. Highly motivated individual with strong work ethic, impressive organization skills, and entrepreneurial passion. Results driven.
Bryn Oakleaf has dedicated her career to public service. She has state government experience from Washington State as well as Vermont. Currently Bryn works in the Watershed Management Division for the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). She joined ANR in 2011 working for the Solid Waste Management Program before moving into leadership supervising the watershed permit and compliance team in 2017. While in the Solid Waste Program she drafted and executed the Materials Management Plan, oversaw numerous studies including the 2012 Waste Composition Study, and facilitated several stakeholder groups such as the Beyond Waste Advisory Group. Currently Bryn facilitates the digitizing of watershed permit applications and compliance reports, implementing business efficiencies, and supports individual permit programs adhere to fee and noticing requirements. Outside of work Bryn serves as a Commissioner on the Board for Chittenden Solid Waste District representing the City of Winooski. She holds a Masters in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School and a B.A. from Mount Holyoke College. She is a 2017 graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute, and is a Vermont Certified Public Manager.
Denise Palmer is a Financial Advisor with Ameriprise Financial (formerly American Express Financial Advisors) in Barre, VT. She has been in business for 20 years and currently holds the ChFC and CLTC designations. She resides in New Haven.
Heather Pelham was appointed Chief Marketing Officer for the State of Vermont in June 2015. In this current role, Pelham serves as steward of the Vermont brand and effectively acts as an internal marketing consultant for communications and outreach activities by state agencies and departments. Prior to joining state government, Pelham was the managing partner of a central Vermont advertising and design firm, developing brand strategies and integrated marketing campaigns for small business, nonprofit and higher education clients. Also an accomplished designer, Pelham has 20 years of experience in creative strategy, graphic design, and web development. Pelham is a graduate of Brown University and lives with her family in Randolph Center.
Gene Richards is a life-long entrepreneur and philanthropist. Starting his career in banking, he became Vice President of Bank of Boston’s mortgage department. Gene went on to incorporate Spruce Mortgage, where he still serves as CEO in addition to being a well-respected landlord in Burlington for over 30 years. Today, Gene is Director of Aviation at the Burlington International Airport, a position he has held since May of 2013. Gene is hands-on and is often seen walking through the airport to greet travelers.
In addition to directing daily airport operations, Gene is devoted to numerous causes and serves on multiple boards. He has been a board member of a number of community groups, including the Boys and Girls Club of Burlington, Burlington Community Health Center, United Way of Chittenden County, Lund Family Center, March of Dimes, Church Street Marketplace Commission, Burlington Fire Commission, Burlington International Airport Commission, Queen City Police Foundation, Stern Center for Language & Learning, American Red Cross, Arthritis Foundation, For One Another Foundation, among others.
Gene is passionate about everything he does and is a leader in supporting the local and statewide economy. Gene is innovative and accessible, while continuing to provide a positive impact on the quality of life for Vermonters.
A native of South Burlington where he still resides, Parker attended Hamilton College and Vermont Law School. After several years of practicing law in California and Vermont, Parker joined the Vermont Ski Areas Association in 1998 for 18 years, serving as President for 12 years as the ski industry's chief lobbyist and media spokesperson while managing VSAA's numerous marketing and public relations initiatives. Parker also served on Governor Douglas’ senior staff as Special Assistant to the Governor and Secretary of Civil & Military Affairs. In 2017, Parker launched his own public affairs and communications firm, First Tracks Strategies, LLC.
In addition to Green Up Vermont, Parker's past and present service on various boards and commissions includes the Governor's Climate Change Commission, the Vermont Travel and Recreation Council, the Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute Board of Advisors, the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum, and the Act 250 - District 4 Environmental Commission. Parker’s father Ted Riehle was the architect of Vermont’s billboard law in 1968 and in 1969 was appointed by Governor Deane Davis to organize the first Green Up Day.
Sheldon served as Green Up Vermont Board Chairman for over 20 years.
Sheldon Prentice is corporate executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for NBT Bancorp. Prentice coordinates the company’s legal activities, manages external legal counsel, oversees relations with regulatory agencies and serves as corporate secretary. He is based at the company’s headquarters in Norwich.
Prentice has 37 years of corporate law experience. Before joining NBT Bancorp, he was senior vice president and general counsel for two years at Merchants Bancshares in South Burlington, Vt. Prior to this, he was senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Burlington, Vt.-based Chittenden Corporation, where he worked for 23 years.
Prentice has a bachelor’s degree in government from Dartmouth College and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in Vermont, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New York. He has been involved in numerous professional and community organizations over the years, including the Vermont Bar Association, the NASD Board of Arbitrators and the American Bankers Association Government Relations Council. He also taught Securities Regulations at Vermont Law School for nine years as an adjunct faculty member.
Prentice is a member of the Chenango County Council of the Arts, Norwich Planning Commission and the government relations council of Commerce Chenango. Prentice has also been active in the Dartmouth Alumni Association, having served as an Alumni Councilor, Area Enrollment for Admissions and as Head Agent for the Dartmouth Alumni Fund for the Class of 1972.