Meet the State Advisory Council

The Early Childhood State Advisory Council (SAC) brings together up to 23 Governor-appointed and at-large public and private early childhood leaders and decision-makers from across sectors to issue recommendations and increase coordination and collaboration to advance a more connected, integrated, and equitable early childhood system.

Cheryle Wilcox

SAC Public Co-Chair; Vermont Department of Mental Health

Cheryle Bilodeau Wilcox, LICSW, is the Interagency Planning Director for Vermont, Agency of Human Services, Department of Mental Health. Cheryle earned a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and Counseling from Lyndon State College and a master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Vermont. She has worked in the human services field for over 20 years. Her experience includes working in child welfare, being a foster parent for adolescents, and working as a trainer and consultant. She has also worked in school-based mental health care and as an outpatient therapist. For the past several years, Cheryle has been focused on policy at the statewide level, supporting funding and service delivery efforts that ensure children, youth, and families receive integrated, family-centered supports.

Flor Diaz Smith

SAC Private Co-Chair; Vermont School Boards Association

Flor grew up in Guatemala City. She is a licensed architect in Guatemala and has been designing in Vermont since 1997. She studied at Francisco Marroquin Architecture School in Guatemala, at Texas A&M, and in Chicago, and she won a scholarship to the Prince of Wales Urban Task Force in 1996. She came to Vermont for an internship at a local architectural firm and fell in love with both Vermont and her future husband.

She started her own design studio, diazsmithSTUDIO, to create more time for family and for community volunteering. Her design studio consults with other architects on interior, residential, school, and retail design. Residential and interior design are her passions, but she also enjoys small commercial and retail design.

Flor’s other big passion is education. She believes that education is a human right and spends a lot of time learning and understanding how to support all kids and how to have a stronger public education and childcare system. A strong public education is the basis of our democracy and the key to successful communities. Flor has served on several boards that support public education. She is the Vice Chair of WCUUSD and is a member of the task force on Diversifying the Educator Workforce in New England and Vermont. She served on the Vermont School Boards Association for several years; as part of the Executive Committee, she had the opportunity to participate in national work.

She and her husband Dan live at a farmhouse in East Montpelier with their children Mia, Isabella, and Lincoln.

Rep. Jessica Brumsted

Vermont House of Representatives

Jessica Brumsted was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, and came to Vermont in 1983 to attend the University of Vermont (UVM), where she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics and a master’s in public administration. Jessica is an experienced government relations professional who started her career in Congressman and then Senator Jim Jeffords’ Vermont office in the late 1980s, where she worked for 12 years on health care and disability policy before serving as Director of Government Relations at (then) Fletcher Allen Health Care. She left Fletcher Allen to serve as Director of the Vermont Area Health Education Centers Program (AHEC) at UVM for several years before resigning to focus her time and energy on raising her four children. For the last decade, she has been an active community volunteer on numerous committees and boards, and she continues to serve on the Lund Board. In 2016, Jessica was elected to the Vermont House of Representatives to represent Shelburne and St. George. She first served on the Government Operations Committee; currently, she is a member of the House Human Services Committee and the Government Accountability Committee. Jessica is married to John and together they are the proud parents of seven children and seven grandchildren.

Libby Daghlian

Parent Representative

Libby joined the Building Bright Futures State Advisory Committee in 2022 as a Parent Representative. Libby was born and raised in Vermont and attended UVM before moving abroad to Uganda, where she worked for a number of different nonprofits focused on youth education, water and sanitation, and reproductive and menstrual health, respectively. While there, she also met her future husband and started their family. After a decade abroad, they moved to Winooski, where they live with their two young daughters. Libby is passionate about helping to build communities that are equitable and inclusive and that support individuals and families at every stage of life. She is grateful to have connected with a large network of other parents and caregivers in Vermont who represent a broad diversity of views and experiences in the early childhood years; she’s committed to sharing those and her own experiences as a parent representative on this committee. In addition to her role as a parent, Libby is also the Associate Director of Development for the Flynn, where she delights in generating support for arts programming for all ages.

Xusana Davis

Vermont Office of Racial Equity

Xusana Davis serves as the State of Vermont’s Executive Director of Racial Equity. She was appointed to the position in June 2019 by Governor Phil Scott. She works with State agencies to identify and address systemic racial disparities, ensure that equity goals and objectives are incorporated throughout the State’s operations, and provide strategic and policy guidance on equity issues. Prior to joining the State of Vermont, she served as Director of Health & Housing Strategic Initiatives at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and as the Director of the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus of the New York City Council. She holds a Juris Doctor with a concentration in International Human Rights Law from New York Law School, where she also directed a civil liberties education program for low-income youth and youth of color. She studied Anthropology and Philosophy at Fordham University, earning the Rev. J. Franklin Ewing, S.J. Award for writing on the relationship between global human rights violations and the proliferation of HIV/AIDS. Xusana is first-generation in the U.S., and proud to be a Spanish-fluent Latina who approaches her work from a multicultural perspective.

Paul Dragon

Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity

Paul Dragon is the Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. Over the past 15 years, Paul has worked at the Vermont Agency of Human Services in several roles, including the Deputy Secretary for the Agency and Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity. As the Director of the Healthcare for the Homeless Program in Burlington, he led the development of the Safe Harbor Clinic and the Pearl Street Clinic. Paul is a former Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Mali, West Africa. Paul received a doctorate degree in Education from the University of Vermont, where he received the Herman B. Meyers Excellence in Doctoral Policy Research Award. Paul lives with his wife and three children in Underhill, Vermont.

Alexis (Lexi) Duquette

Parent Representative

Lexi is passionate about supporting Vermont’s children and families. She became a Parent Ambassador with Building Bright Futures and joined the Families and Communities Committee in 2019. In 2020, Lexi was elected as co-chair of the Southeast Vermont BBF Regional Council. She shares her experience as a parent, community member, and advocate to make systems change. Lexi is committed to highlighting concrete and lived examples from families that mirror systems-level policy as a way to remind decision-makers of the impacts of policies on Vermont’s youngest children and families. Lexi lives in Putney with her husband and four children.

Renee Kelly

SAC Secretary; Head Start Collaboration Office

Renee Kelly serves as Director of the Vermont Head Start Collaboration Office within the Child Development Division. She holds a B.S. in Psychology & Human Services from Lyndon State College, a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College, and has over 10 years of experience in human services and early childhood systems, beginning by serving as an Early Head Start Home Visitor in Newport, Vermont. She is a 2018 graduate of the Snelling Center for Government Vermont Leadership Institute and is qualified as a Results-Based Accountability (RBA) trainer and certified facilitator. Renee is passionate about using her skills and experience to improve the quality of life for Vermont’s most vulnerable children and families. She describes herself as a curious and reflective systems-thinker committed to and excited by using data to inform programmatic and policy-level decision-making. She currently resides in Barre Town with her two young children and enjoys disc golf, tennis, gardening, and reading.

Eddie Gale

A. D. Henderson Foundation

Eddie Gale is the Vermont Program Director for the A.D. Henderson Foundation. The Henderson Foundation is one of the larger private funders of early care and education and adult-to-child mentoring programs in Vermont, and Eddie helps applicants think strategically about their proposals, including articulating why the work is needed and determining how to measure impact. Prior to his involvement with the Henderson Foundation, Eddie began his career in philanthropy with the Vermont Community Foundation, implementing two grants from the Ford Foundation to support community-based initiatives and sustainable development in the Northeast Kingdom. Eddie was affiliated with the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont while completing his master’s degree in Natural Resource Planning, and he also has a bachelor’s degree from UVM, separated by a stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in Sri Lanka and summer jobs with the Bureau of Land Management in Utah, the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Eddie grew up in Barre and lives in Johnson.

Dimitri Garder

Business Representative; Global-Z International

Dimitri Garder is co-founder and CEO of Global-Z International, a data management company serving global brands for the past 30 years. In his work, he has developed and implemented complex global data quality assessment and improvement solutions for many Global-Z clients, ranging from small companies to Fortune 100s. His 30 years of experience with complex global data makes him one of the leading experts in the data management industry. His approach to data quality is pragmatic, statistically focused, and metrics driven. He believes in solving complex problems through simple, clear, analytical thinking.

Dimitri is active in community development in Southwestern Vermont. He is co-chair of the Vermont Business Roundtable’s Early Care and Learning Taskforce and is a vocal advocate for the development and funding of Vermont’s pre-K system. His board positions include Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Vermont Community Foundation, Vermont Business Roundtable, Bennington County Industrial Corporation, and the Bennington Early Childhood Center. He was a co-founder of The Lightning Jar, a co-working space and business incubator located in Bennington, and he founded The Bennington Idea Fund, a micro-grant fund focused on economic advancement and poverty alleviation projects. He is also an investor in the Bennington Redevelopment Group, a team of local investors who are revitalizing the downtown Bennington economy. Dimitri holds a BA in Music Theory from the University of Vermont and an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Miranda Gray

DCF Child Development Division

Miranda Gray is the Deputy Commissioner for Vermont, Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families, Child Development Division. Miranda has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, has graduated from the Snelling Center for Government’s Vermont Leadership Institute, and has presented at several national conferences/webinars on the whole-family approach and success through coordinated mental health and substance use services. Prior to working with the State of Vermont, Miranda worked at the Orange County Parent Child Center as a Family Support Worker, then as a contracted Reach Up Case Manager. She has worked with the State for 13 years in the Economic Services Division, Reach Up Program. Miranda describes her career as revolving around supporting Vermonters and their families, and she looks forward to continuing to do this important work.

Sen. Ruth Hardy

Vermont Senate

Ruth Hardy of East Middlebury, Addison County, Democrat, was raised in central New York State in the Ithaca area, where her mother was a teacher and her father was a state civil servant. Ruth received a BA in Government from Oberlin College in Ohio and a master’s degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Following graduate school, Ruth was a Fiscal Analyst for the Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau, covering education issues. She moved to East Middlebury, Vermont, in 2002. In addition to the ongoing work of raising three children, Ruth has been Executive Director of the Open Door Clinic, Assistant Budget Director at Middlebury College, and Government Grants Director at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. Most recently, Ruth was Executive Director of Emerge Vermont, which recruits and trains women to run for public office. Ruth served three terms on local school boards and was Chair of the Middlebury Mary Hogan School Board, Co-Chair of the ACSU Unification Charter Committee, and Chair of the ACSD Finance Committee. In addition, Ruth has served on several early childhood education boards, spearheads tree planting initiatives at schools, and is active in local politics. She is a graduate of the Snelling Center’s Vermont Leadership Institute. Ruth lives with her husband, Jason Mittell, a professor of Film & Media at Middlebury College, and their children, Greta, Anya, and Walter.

Amy Johnson

Parent Child Center Network

Amy Johnson has worked nearly 20 years in the field of human services, both domestically and internationally. Originally from Michigan, Amy started her career as a foster care case manager in Detroit. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Arts degree in Social Justice and Human Rights, her unique combination of educational and professional experiences has helped her to gain a keen insight into family systems within the broader context of the education, health, and early childhood worlds. Amy has been dedicated to enhancing and supporting the well-being of children and families for the duration of her career. As a collaborative and creative leader, she has forged diverse partnerships that have helped to create programming that has sought to strengthen protective factors in families, promote positive child development and parent-child relationships, and mitigate the risk and effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and toxic stress. Amy is passionately skilled in the areas of trauma-informed care, ACEs and resiliency, Results-Based Accountability, collective impact, perinatal mental health and supports, equity & inclusion, and early childhood systems. Amy lives in Burlington with her daughter, Luna, and is on the board of the Vermont Chapter of Postpartum Support International. She is currently the Director of the Parent Child Center of Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and a member of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network.

Janet McLaughlin

Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children

Janet McLaughlin has been the Executive Director for the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VTAEYC) since April 2021. Janet’s passion for a more equitable society has driven her two decades in nonprofit leadership. Prior to VTAEYC, Janet worked at the intersection of programs and policy in Vermont’s early childhood education system while serving as Chief Programs Officer, interim CEO, and Chief Operating Officer at Let’s Grow Kids. Prior to that, she headed the Vermont Community Foundation’s Food and Farm Initiative, a collaborative effort to fight hunger in Vermont while strengthening its local food system. From 2004 to 2013, Janet oversaw the growth of Cooking Matters, a food skills education program for low-income families, while at DC-based nonprofit Share Our Strength. She has a Master’s of Public Administration with a specialization in Nonprofit Management from Syracuse University and her undergraduate degree from Harvard University. Janet lives in Burlington and is an enthusiastic eater, dedicated “all levels” yogi, wife of a “real” Vermonter, and mom of two energetic elementary-aged boys.

Mike McRaith

Vermont Principals' Association

Mike McRaith works as the Assistant Executive Director for the Vermont Principals’ Association. He also is a board member for the Vermont Historical Society, a 2013 Rowland Fellow, and was honored by the VT-VFW as the 2018 Vermont High School Educator of the Year. In the past, he has worked as a high school counselor and as a middle school principal in Enosburg Falls, and as the principal at Montpelier High School.

Dr. Ashley Miller

South Royalton Health Center

Dr. Ashley Miller was born and raised in southern New Hampshire, left briefly for college, returned to the Upper Valley for medical school at Dartmouth, and stayed. She was lucky to spend time with Dr. Becky at South Royalton Health Center (SRHC) during training and was very excited to join her practice in 2014 and recently take over ownership. Dr. Ashley can be found both in the office at SRHC and in the school-based clinics. She has a special interest in adolescent medicine and mental health but truly enjoys following families from birth to graduation (whether that’s high school or grad school!). She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, actively involved at the state and national level. When she not seeing patients, you can find Dr. Ashley competing at local horse trials (triathlons on horseback), hiking or snowshoeing in the surrounding mountains, and swimming in the local rivers with her dogs.

Ilisa Stalberg

Vermont Department of Health

Ilisa Stalberg, MSS, MLSP, is the Director of Maternal and Child Health (MCH) at the Vermont Department of Health, and prior to this served as the Deputy MCH Director at the Health Department. In these roles, Ilisa oversees strategic planning and statewide program development, and works to support public health integration with health care and social service delivery. Ilisa has a Master of Social Service and Law and Social Policy degree from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. Ilisa has worked for more than 20 years in public health, primarily in Maternal and Child Health, direct service, systems design and development, and research and evaluation. Ilisa is a proud Philadelphia native but loves Vermont and all it has to offer professionally and personally.

Christy Swenson

Capstone Community Action/Head Start

Christy Swenson spent almost 20 years providing direct service for children and families. She began her career as a speech-language pathologist working for a rural hospital that held the contract for birth-to-three services for the county. She provided the services for that contract through home visiting and a preschool program, as well as providing outpatient therapy to a mostly preschool population. She then worked in the school system, where she developed specialties in autism spectrum disorder and developmental verbal dyspraxia. When Christy joined Capstone Head Start three years ago, she continued working with families, teachers, and home visitors before moving into the Head Start director role, providing support to staff working directly with children and families. Christy lives in Montpelier with her two teenage sons.

Rebecca (Becca) Webb

SAC Treasurer; Barre Unified Union School District

Rebecca (Becca) Webb has been in the field of early childhood since 1997. She has worked in a variety of early childhood environments, including as a classroom teacher and director in community childcares, developmental educator in Early Intervention, public-school classroom teacher, and itinerant special educator. In her three years as a Project Director for the Vermont Child Health Improvement Program (VCHIP), she coached providers in implementing universal developmental screenings in their programs. She is a member of NAEYC, a past board member of the Vermont CEC-Division of Early Childhood, and a Master Instructor in the Northern Lights Instructor Registry. Currently she’s a Regional Act 166 Coordinator for several supervisory unions in Central Vermont. In this role she is a liaison between these school systems and community programs providing Act 166 (Universal PreK). A 2017 graduate of the Early Childhood Leadership Institute, she is deeply interested in Vermont’s early childhood systems, supporting teachers, and cultural competence. Becca has a BA in English Literature from St. Michael’s College, an MEd in Early Childhood Special Education from the University of Vermont, and is currently enrolled in the Educational Leadership master’s program at UVM. She has a Vermont teaching license with an endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education. She lives in Burlington.

Heather Wilcoxon

Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Southeastern Vermont

Heather Wilcoxon, LCMHC, is the Assistant Children’s Division Director for Healthcare & Rehabilitation Services, serving Windsor and Windham counties as the designated mental health agency. Heather earned her bachelor’s degree from Palm Beach Atlantic University, double-majoring in Psychology and Communications. She earned her master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling from Nova Southeastern University. Heather has worked in nonprofits for over 15 years and has been dedicated to supporting some of our most vulnerable populations throughout the lifespan. She has worked with individuals and families in hospice care, crisis intervention, and children’s mental health, supporting children as young as 2 and their caregivers through Child Parent Psychotherapy and other evidence-based practices. Heather has been a champion for early childhood work and has been able to better advocate and support young children and families in Vermont through her current leadership role overseeing the Early Childhood and Family Mental Health programming at HCRS and providing clinical supervision and consultation.

Heather has partnered with the Dartmouth Trauma Interventions Research Center (DTIRC) on various SAMHSA grant projects that bring training and consultation on early childhood trauma to community providers including childcare centers, DCF, schools, local shelters, and private practitioners. She has also partnered with DTIRC to support a local hospital and health center in their transformation to becoming trauma-informed and better at understanding and responding to trauma in individuals of all ages to help foster resiliency and healing in our local community. Heather strives to utilize her leadership to promote excellence and inspire others to promote positive growth and change in themselves and those they serve.

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