Brattleboro Remarkable Women, 2019

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The 2019 Remarkable Women Awards

Thursday, December 5, 2019 6:30-8:30 p.m.

The River Garden Main Street, Brattleboro

Special Guest Speaker: Rachel Desautels, Executive Director, Girls on the Run VT Sponsored by:

Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019 The Brattleboro Reformer |

Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors is proud to continue our tradition of women in leadership. For 55 years, this local, independent, family-owned business has been supporting the careers of extraordinary women.

Tamara Purcell, Owner Broker

Penelope Arms, Realtor

Ingrid Bennett, Realtor

Heidi Bernier, Realtor

Jessie Heller, Realtor

Karen Hoppe, Realtor

Danielle Lauria, Realtor

Oona Madden, Realtor

Wilma Skovinski, Realtor

Jane Sonntag, Realtor

Janet Walkiewics, Realtor

Lucinda Bernard, Office Admin.

Maria Diran, Realtor

Jody Graves, Realtor

Stephanie Peduzzi-Baker, Realtor

Claire Renaud, Realtor

Erika Elder, Office Admin.

Nancy Schulman, Accounting

Berkley & Veller Greenwood Countr y Realtor s

119 Western Avenue, Brattleboro, Vermont • 802-254-6400 • 2

Kimberley R. Diemond

Kate O’Connor

Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont

Executive Director, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce

Kimberley joined Big Brothers Big Sisters as Program Director in 2014 and transitioned to Executive Director in 2017, seeing the organization through an expansion from a county-wide to a state-wide organization. She holds a BS concentrated in Business and Finance; a Certificate in Paralegal Studies and Certificate in Nonprofit Management. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Joy’s Network, a volunteer cancer organization based in N.H., an appointed member of the Vermont Substance Misuse Prevention Oversight and Advisory Council, and raised a lovely and talented daughter, Sarah, who lives in Maine. Kimberley resides in West Chesterfield, N.H. with her partner Michael.

Cassie Kelley

Kate currently serves as the executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce and as chair of the Brattleboro Select Board. She began her career in public service as an aide to then Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin. For fourteen years she was a top policy and political advisor to Howard Dean during his tenure as Vermont governor and as a candidate for president of the United States – an experience she chronicled in her book, “Do The Impossible: My Crash Course in Presidential Politics Inside the Howard Dean Campaign.” Kate serves on the Board of Trustees of the Brattleboro Retreat and is a member of the State of Vermont’s E-911 Board. She most recently served as the chair of the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel.

Remarkable Women 2019 | Saturday, November 23, 2019


Serenity Smith Forchion

Marketing Director, Brattleboro Savings & Loan Cassie is the Marketing Director at Brattleboro Savings & Loan. She is an accomplished designer and marketing professional, and has been working within her field for over 20 years. Her prior experience working for a marketing agency specializing in banks has given her a strong background in banking. Cassie studied art at Keene State College, and has fond memories of Brattleboro from her college days. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, two daughters and their dogs.

Denise Naeck Denise Naeck joined the C&S Wholesale Grocers family in July of 2010, starting in Customer Service as a Call Center Representative. Within the C&S Company, she has worked in Customer Service, Demand Planning, as the Workforce Management Analyst and is currently the Customer Service Supervisor for the SE Division. Prior to joining C&S, Denise tried out her entrepreneurial hat and was the owner of “A Sign Stop,” a custom sign and graphics company, serving customers for over two years with custom logo designs used for business signage, vehicle graphics, business cards and other business marketing products in support of customer needs and branding. Denise has two Bachelor’s degrees from Keene State College – a B.S. in Safety Studies and a B.A. in Psychology. She is a lifelong resident of the area, having raised her three children in Swanzey, N.H., and now embraces four generations with three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Serenity is an award winning aerialist and business woman. Along with her twin sister, Elsie Smith, she is the winner of the BDCC Business Plan Competition that led to their founding the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont in 2007. Serenity’s resume includes Cirque du Soleil, Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey, Special Award at Wuqiao Festival, Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and American Circus Educators Award for Excellence in Education. Serenity’s expertise as a teacher and performer focuses on bringing together detailed technique with theatrical complexity to expand capacity for creative storytelling through circus. Through their award winning production company, Nimble Arts, Serenity tours the world as aerial performer while continuing to serve at NECCA as Producing Director. Serenity hopes to inspire the current and next generations of circus performers and teachers with authenticity and grace. Learn more at and

REMARKABLE WOMEN! One Remarkable Woman from each of the three categories will be announced on December 5th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the River Garden downtown Brattleboro. This event is open to the public. Our speaker for the evening will be Rachel Desautels, Executive Director of Girls on the Run Vermont. Drinks available from Whetstone Brewery. Appetizers provided. Come join us to celebrate all the Remarkable Women nominated.

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Customer Service Supervisor, C&S Wholesale Grocers

Executive Director, New England Center for Circus Arts


Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019 The Brattleboro Reformer | 4


Rachel Desautels Executive Director, Girls on the Run Vermont Rachel Desautels is the new executive director of Girls on the Run Vermont, a national non-profit organization that has helped empower over 45,000 girls in Vermont since 1999. Rachel steps into this job after spending five years with the organization in various roles that have allowed her to become an expert on the program and uniquely qualifies her to be at the helm of decision making for the organization’s future. Her previous fourteen year work experience in the advertising industry as a national television media executive in N.Y.C. honed her negotiation skills as well as other key proficiencies of successful business operations. It was in this industry that Rachel received the Wyeth Global Excellence Award for her contributions to her team’s account. Rachel brings with her a strong passion for the mission of GOTRVT as

well as the determination to ensure the sustainability of the program and the ability to cultivate an environment for the organization to grow and thrive. Rachel discovered the love of running soon after her second child was born and can no longer imagine her life without this outlet for mental, physical and social wellbeing. She is the mother of two teenage children, who are both heavily involved with GOTRVT, rooted from the genuine love they have for the program. Rachel’s husband, Mike, has served as a trusty advisor to Rachel on all things GOTRVT over the years. He, too, shares the vision of a program that will flourish in Vermont for our girls. Rachel’s family lives in Williston, Vt. with their loyal Boxer, Ramsey.

Allisyn Houghton has been named as a finalist in the Business Leader category for Remarkable Women. Congratulations from your colleagues at The Richards Group! Allisyn Houghton, Investment Advisor

(800) 222-6016 | Registered Representatives, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge Investment Research and The Richards Group are not affiliated and do not provide legal or tax advice.

Entrepreneurial Leader Award winner Kristen Ziter Taylor, left, accepts her plaque at the 2018 Remarkable Women Awards in Brattleboro.

Honorees at the first annual Remarkable Women Awards, from left to right: Kristen Ziter Taylor (winner, Entrepreneurial Leader), Chloe Learey (nominee, Business Leader), Lisa McCormick (nominee, Entrepreneurial Leader), Carla McComb (nominee, Entrepreneurial Leader), Becky Graber (nominee, Non-profit Leader), Vt. Sen. Becca Balint (guest speaker), Amber Thibodeau (winner, Non-profit Leader), Carolyn Pieciak (nominee, Nonprofit Leader) and Toni Ciampaglione (nominee, Business Leader). Vermont Senator Becca Balint addresses the room. Amber Thibodeau, left, accepts her Non-profit Leader award.

Remarkable Women 2019 | Saturday, November 23, 2019


2018 Remarkable Women Award winners Entrepreneurial Leader

Kristen Ziter Taylor Business Leader

Kate O’Connor The Brattleboro Reformer |

Non-Profit Leader

Amber Thibodeau urn Hattin Homes Congratulations to Kurn Director for Children’s Assistant Executivee Dir

susan kessle er s u sa n k essle r remarkable woman non-profit leader finalist (802) 721-6916


Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019


Allisyn Houghton Joy Boyd

Retirement Plan Account Executive, The Richards Group

I am beginning my 25th year owning and operating Shear Designs Hair Studio & Tanning in Brattleboro. I opened on April Fool’s Day in 1995 at my present location. Prior to opening my own hair studio, I worked at a local salon for 12 years. In the first year my hair studio doubled in size. My friends say I learned my hairdressing skills on them, but I studied at Houles Beauty Academy in Manchester, N.H. in 1983. Prior to opening the salon, I studied small business management at the Community College of Vermont. I have continued my education throughout the years at Granite State College. Hairdressing is an ever evolving industry. In my 37 years I have attended hundreds of advanced classes in all aspects of my profession. I’ve taken part with hands-on roles in teaching at some of these classes. Over the years, owning a business has evolved into so much more. It became a platform to give back in so many ways to this great community. I’ve worked with the Reach Up Program, the Tapestry Program, the Apprenticeship Program and BUHS programs, all of which have helped mentor young girls. We’ve done a Locks of Love Cut-a-Thon now for 19 years, a Santa Day Toy Drive helping Toys for Kids, The Rugged Maniac 5k Mud Run for the Women’s Freedom Center, free haircuts at local charity events, and regularly donate to raffles and fundraisers as well. Our two biggest fundraisers to date have raised over $10,000 for a family in serious need. I have volunteered my services at the Brattleboro Queen and Princess pageants for many years. My team at the salon is always happy to give their time to these great organizations. My husband and I have been together now for 27 years and live in Hinsdale, N.H. We have three amazing children. We were blessed to adopt our first child from Romania at 7 months old. She is now 19 and in the United States Air Force. Our 12-year-old twins entered our lives at 3 years old and we were also grateful to have been able to adopt them from the foster care system. We have been taking care of mentally challenged children and young adults for 20 years and have been foster parents for ten years. In addition, I am a passionate animal activist!

Allie currently is employed by The Richards Group in their Brattleboro office, and has been the lead Account Executive for their retirement plan book of business since 2016. In her role at TRG, she is a co-fiduciary and advises employers regarding the management of their retirement plans. She also travels extensively in the Northeast, as well as the D.C. area, to help develop and lead onsite education initiatives for plan participants. For many, being able to save for retirement isn’t a possibility now, so a lot of her work deals with helping people dismantle the roadblocks impeding them from longer term savings. She leads workshops about many financial wellness topics such as budgeting, building an emergency fund and prioritizing savings, and debt management. She is a registered Investment Advisor, and holds her FINRA Series 6, 7, 63 and 65 securities licenses, as well as her Vermont Life & Health license. She has been awarded the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® designation from the Center for Fiduciary Studies. Prior to TRG, Allie was employed by an international digital publishing company where, in addition to being a staff accountant, she provided financial analysis based on sales data and anticipated market trends, and coordinated the sales and marketing efforts of the North American branch. She graduated from the Isenberg School of Management with her Bachelor’s in Accounting in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is a lifelong resident of Guilford and lives with her fiancé Kevin and their three fur babies. In her free time, she enjoys hiking with her dogs and is still active in local sports leagues, organizing a team for the women’s basketball league here in Brattleboro, as well as a local area softball team. She also bartends part time at the Brattleboro Elks, as well as being a member of the Lodge, and is a supporter of their local fundraising efforts and charitable giving. She also has an interest in helping local businesses succeed, and has provided guidance to various businesses and nonprofits with regards to bookkeeping, accounting and tax code adherence. In the past, she has been involved in area youth sports, volunteering in both a coaching and officiating capacity. Her current volunteer focus is Project Feed the Thousands, which is in full swing.

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Owner, Shear Designs Hair Studio & Tanning


Tami Purcell

Broker/owner, Berkley Veller Greenwood Country Realtors

BUSINESS LEADER AWARD NOMINEES *Joy Boyd Sabine Rhyne *Allisyn Houghton Kalea Shippee *Tami Purcell Kate Theiralt

Sandy Harris

Organizer, Brattle Paddle Event Sandy was born and raised in Brattleboro. A child in the 50s, there was no televisions or computers, so work and play were often synonymous. With her neighbors she would shovel snow and build a fort, rake leaves and jump in them, and sell lemonade on Putney Road. She was fortunate to have had role models who were committed to community activities and promoting athletic events. Sandy has always had a personal drive to do projects and help others, and has been involved in this community for over 60 years. After college, she bought her first house and renovated it, making it into a rental property. She continues to have an interest in restoring and creating housing locally, managing and owning several properties. In addition, Sandy started her own paperhanging and decorating business in 1976, which served the area for 30 years. Brattleboro was an accepting and encouraging community for women starting in business. In 1981 she opened a lighting business. Then in 1983 she was instrumental, with business partners, in constructing Black Mountain Square, a multi-business retail mall. She is currently the operating manager. This building has been the beginning for so many local business owners. It has been a pleasure for her to see and help other businesses succeed. Her other interests include environmental conservation, animal rights and affordable housing for all. Her sports passions are hiking and marathon canoe racing. This interest led to the creation of the local Brattle Paddle event at the West River Marina, now looking forward to its 4th year. It has brought over 75 folks from the New England area to compete in Brattleboro on one of its most beautiful natural resources. Her goal is to bring paddle sports to everyone. It’s an activity all can enjoy. The community has whole heartedly helped support her. The proceeds of this race go to the West River Trail. Sandy considers Brattleboro to be a unique town, encouraging possibility and camaraderie. As a way to honor her father’s legacy, Sandy also contributes her time to the Harris Hill Ski Jump, which he built in 1922. She maintains the grounds there and serves on the board and other committees with the many volunteers who have worked so hard over the years to ensure the success of this event. It is a huge community effort. Her friends and activities in Brattleboro are a gift in her life. Sandy would say, “follow your dreams, don’t take no for an answer, ask for help, maintain your own values and do everything with kindness. Success isn’t measured in dollars. It is measured by your heart!”

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Growing up in the beautiful Green Mountain State, I knew that it would be here where I eventually would want to settle down to work and raise a family. I have been a Realtor since 1986 and am the second generation to operate our family business. I am licensed in both Vermont and New Hampshire. I hold the Realtor GRI designation, and am a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Vermont Association of Realtors and the Southern Vermont Board of Realtors, where I serve as chairperson of the Grievance Committee. While I like listing and selling property, my time mainly focuses on managing our two offices. I like working with vacation properties, country homes and farms. I specialize in equestrian facilities and currently own a small horse boarding facility with my family, which enables me to capitalize on my love of horses. Currently I am a member of the Brattleboro Rotary Club. I appreciate the camaraderie of the club as well as the service and community volunteer projects we help with. I enjoy being involved in the community and am currently on the board of directors of the Windham County Humane Society and the River Gallery School. Marlboro is the town that I call home. I live there with my husband Michael, our daughter Giovana, our dog Gracie, two cats and several horses. When I am not involved in real estate, I take pleasure in gardening, snowshoeing, kayaking and photography. I am a member of the 251 Club of Vermont, having visited and photographed every town in Vermont.


Remarkable Women 2019 | Saturday, November 23, 2019



Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019


Erin Maile O’Keefe

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Co-Founder. Tiny House Fest Vermont


Erin is driven by questions of inclusion, connection, co-authorship and empathy. As a teaching artist, trainer, and facilitator she has developed kinesthetic, multigenerational curriculums for over thirty years. She has worked with diverse cultural groups and communities across the U.S. and around the world, bringing them together through skillfully facilitated play. Such groups are centered in schools, colleges, group homes, senior care facilities, community centers, mental health centers, hospitals, conferences, festivals, and in the streets. In 1997, Erin co-created the practice of CircusYoga, synthesizing a unique blend of movement, circus, connection and play. Since then, she has trained over 300 teachers and social workers in an embodied and co-authored approach to education and group dynamics, and mentored a vibrant community of teachers worldwide. Erin continues to be a student of education, movement, systems thinking, developmental patterning, group dynamics, community building and human-centered design. Upon completion of a Master Certificate in Creative Placemaking at Ohio State University, Erin expanded her vision through The Human Connection Project, activating communities through municipal-wide arts projects, creative placemaking and experiential engagement to form lasting bonds and group connection. In 2015 she co-founded the Tiny House Fest Vermont. As the director of programming, her creative vision for the festival uses tiny homes as a hub to address the many spokes of social issues — education, our housing crisis, best building sciences, equity and sustainability. She served on non-profit boards for the West Brattleboro Association, Vermont Performance Lab and the American Youth Circus Organization. She’s an active Rotarian and designed a community project for the Turning Point. In 2020, she will collaborate with local organizations and the West Brattleboro community to create an artsbased initiative called, “Water Ways: Co-evolving with the Whetstone Brook” addressing the history, ecology and life on and in the brook. Erin believes in the importance of the arts to strengthen our community and support social and economic development. She works through an asset-based lens to seek creative solutions that come from co-authorship, where everyone has a seat at the table.

Elizabeth Wood Owner, New Leaf CSA

Elizabeth Wood started the New Leaf CSA farm in Dummerston in 2002, with the goal of connecting local people with the farm through community supported agriculture (CSA). New Leaf CSA allows participants to enjoy fresh, organically-grown produce and know exactly where, how, and by whom their food is produced. Wood started with very little money and no land. She now intensively cultivates about six acres, producing vegetables for more than 100 families. Wood creates jobs for local people and provides reduced price CSA shares for low-income families. In recent years, she has transitioned the farm into year-round fresh vegetable production, adding winter and spring CSA programs and participating in the Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ market. She would like to thank all the CSA members who have supported the farm over the years, the farm staff and all of her supporters in the community.

ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADER AWARD NOMINEES *Sandy Harris Trish Thomas Lisa Merton *Elizabeth Wood *Erin Maile O’Keefe

Remarkable Women 2019 | Saturday, November 23, 2019


Susan Kessler

Assistant Executive Director, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children

Recreation & Parks Director, Town of Brattleboro Carol started at the Brattleboro Recreation and Parks department in the fall of 1986 as the Program Director, after graduating from Lyndon State College with a B.S. in Recreation and Leisure Studies in the spring of the same year. She continued in this capacity until the spring of 1990 when she succeeded Frank H. Dearborn as the third Recreation and Parks Director in Brattleboro’s history. Carol is responsible for the fiscal management, planning, organizing and directing of recreational activities and special events for the citizens of Brattleboro. Additionally, she is responsible for the oversight of the maintenance of parks and cemeteries. Her other responsibilities include organizing community-wide special events like the Brattleboro Winter Carnival, the July 4th festivities and the Last Night Celebrations. Carol has been a Steering Committee member of the Brattleboro Winter Carnival for 33 years. She is also the only person to have been a three-time President of the Winter Carnival, in the years 1993, 2011 and 2017. She is Vice President this year and is in line to be President in 2021. In 2007, Carol was awarded the Theresa S. Brungardt Award. This is the highest honor bestowed by the Vermont Recreation and Parks Association. This award was established to recognize recreation pioneer Theresa S. Brungardt, and is given annually to the outstanding Vermont Recreation and Parks professional of the year. The crowning achievement of Carol’s stewardship has been the purchase and development of West River Park, which opened in May of 2013. Carol lives in Brattleboro with her husband Bud and has raised two children, Sara of County Cork, Ireland and RJ of Worcester, Mass.

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Susan Kessler is proud to be part of the Kurn Hattin Homes community in Westminster, Vermont. Kurn Hattin offers children a safe home and quality education in a nurturing environment. Over Susan’s 25-year tenure her responsibilities have steadily increased, from Admissions Coordinator, to Director of Admissions, and most recently with her appointment as Assistant Executive Director. She oversees all direct student services including admissions, the school, residential life, counseling, nursing, food services and volunteers. Susan is involved in all aspects of each student’s life at Kurn Hattin, from enrollment to graduation and beyond. When students walk across the graduation stage each year, she loves to watch and reflect on each one’s individual transformation during their time at Kurn Hattin. She also remains deeply connected to Kurn Hattin alumni and their families. One of the first women admitted to Colgate University, Susan majored in social relations and graduated from Colgate with honors, then went on to earn her master’s degree in education from Syracuse University. She taught in public and private schools in upstate New York and in her home state of New Jersey before moving to New England with her husband Steven in 1982. She belongs to the Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine School Counselors’ Associations and the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Susan has been a school board member for the Surry Village Charter School since 2017, and has also done extensive work with environmental education initiatives, service learning and school to career programs. In all her endeavors, Susan strives to establish and nurture positive, productive relationships between individuals and groups no matter how diverse, including students, teachers, administrators, college faculty and staff, and business and community leaders.

Carol Lolatte


Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019


Sue Graff

The Brattleboro Reformer |

AHS Field Services Director, State of Vermont


Since July 2018, Sue Graff has been the Vt. Agency of Human Services Field Services Director for the Brattleboro and Springfield districts, following a 20-plus-year career in the nonprofit sector. Sue has a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management and Urban Policy. Her career in the nonprofit sector included community engagement, development, program coordination, volunteer management, and consulting work at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), Mothers’ Voices, New York Cares, the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition, and the United Way of Windham County. In her current role, Sue represents the AHS Secretary in the field and acts as a liaison between the six departments of AHS (Corrections; Health; Health Access; Children & Families; Mental Health; Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living) and the central office in Waterbury, as well as with community partners. Over the course of her career in Vermont, Sue has actively participated in many coalition tables addressing complex issues, including the Hunger Council of the Windham Region, Continuum of Care, and VT Building Bright Futures councils. She convenes the area’s Accountable Communities for Health team with the Blueprint Manager and OneCare Clinical Director from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. Sue moved to Vermont in 2005 from Hoboken, New Jersey with her husband and two daughters and lives in Brattleboro.

ENTREPRENEURIAL LEADER AWARD NOMINEES Elaine Beam Orly Munzing *Sue Graff Kim Nace *Susan Kessler Susan Parris Maggie Lewis Carolyn Pieciak *Carol Lolatte Lisa Whitney

Thanks for all you do to better the greater Brattleboro community! Sincerely from all here at

supports rEmarKaBlE WomEn in BusinEss and WE

congratulate thE 2019 nominEEs!

Kristen won the Entrepreneurial award last year and is proud to be a presenter in this years event.

Remarkable Women 2019 | Saturday, November 23, 2019

BrattlEBoro arEa rEalty

Kristen Ziter Taylor Entrepreneurial Leader Owner/Broker

Selling Real Estate in Vermont & New Hampshire since 1973

Angela Sherman, Office Manager/Realtor VT

Christine Lewis, Broker VT & NH

Rebecca Seymour, Realtor VT & NH

Kerry Mulverhill, Realtor VT & NH

Randi Ziter, Realtor VT & NH

Stephanie Wilde, Realtor VT & NH

Vicki Woods, Realtor VT & NH

Hannah Rosinski, Realtor VT

Tracy Marino, Realtor VT

Marcia Jansen, Realtor VT & ME

Kristen Ziter Taylor, Broker VT & NH

BrattleBoro area realty • 802-257-1335

The Brattleboro Reformer |

Tim Berg, Realtor VT



The Brattleboro Reformer |

Saturday, November 23, 2019 | Remarkable Women 2019