Meet the State Advisory Council

Vermont’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council (SAC) is the state’s Governor-appointed, primary advisory body on the well-being of children from the prenatal period through age 8 and their families, advising the Governor, Administration, and Legislature on early childhood policy and systems improvements. The SAC is composed of 27 members, including seven public designated members, two legislators, 15 at-large members, and three non-voting members who work together to issue recommendations, increase coordination and collaboration, and advance a more connected, integrated, and equitable early childhood system.

Learn more about the SAC, including notices of upcoming meetings and recordings of past meetings.

Ilisa Stalberg

SAC Public Co-Chair; 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.

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 chair of Washington Central Unified Union School District (WCUUSD), clerk of Central Vermont Career Center School District, and a member of the task force on Diversifying the Educator Workforce in New England and Vermont. She is vice president of the Vermont School Boards Association and serves on the National School Board Association.

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

Family Representative

Libby joined the Building Bright Futures State Advisory Committee in 2022 as a Family 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.

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.

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.

Sharron Harrington

Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VTAEYC)
Close up photo of Dr. Debra Hartswick with blue water in the background

Debra Hartswick

Retired Medical Professional

Dr. Hartswick recently retired after 30 years in private practice at Pediatric Medicine, PLC, in South Burlington. Building strong relationships with patients was a cornerstone of her clinical career. While supporting families through their children’s growth and development, she learned the importance of family centered healthcare. She feels honored by the trust that families placed in her over the years, with many of her first patients bringing their children (and even grandchildren) to her.

Dr. Hartswick was raised in Vermont and attended Dartmouth College, returning home for her medical training at UVM. During her time in practice, she served as a board member and medical advisor for Make A Wish of Vermont, served on hospital committees as a community liaison, and mentored medical students. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Vermont State Medical Society. Dr. Hartswick believes that safe housing, food security, and early childhood education are the foundations for healthy children and families. Health equity and culturally sensitive care for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation is a key goal for Dr. Hartswick, and she is committed to continued work for children and families with diverse backgrounds.

While Dr. Hartswick misses the joys of direct patient care, she is excited to begin this new chapter serving children and families through her involvement with Building Bright Futures and the State Advisory Council. In her free time, she enjoys walking, hiking, and biking with her husband on Vermont’s extensive rail trails and visiting her two adult children.

Closeup photo of Kiona Baez Heath

Kiona Baez Heath

Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Kiona Baez Heath (she/her) engages social change and systems-based approaches to understanding and addressing trauma and oppression. Her work has included direct services for survivors of violence and exploitation, technical assistance to agencies and organizers seeking to increase equity in their work, anti-oppressive policy development for healthcare and educational institutions, and training for local and national anti-violence partners. Kiona is currently the Director of Trauma Informed Care at the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. And she experiences all of her work as the slow and ongoing creation of the world she wants to live in. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Kiona has a B.A. from McGill University and an M.P.A. from the University of Vermont. She shares a life with her husband, her two young kids, and her dog in Charlotte, Vermont.

Head shot of Amber Hewston

Amber Hewston

Family Representative

Amber Hewston was born and raised in Lamoille County, Vermont. After high school, Amber left Vermont to attend Clark University where she also spent two semesters abroad in the United Kingdom. She went on to earn a Master of Physical Therapy degree from California State University, Long Beach, and completed a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Pediatric Science degree at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Amber has worked in pediatric physical therapy for over 12 years in Hawaii, the UK, and Vermont, where she returned in 2021 and is an Early Intervention Physical Therapist in the North Windsor and Orange County region.

Amber joined the Families and Communities Committee with Building Bright Futures in summer 2022 and has welcomed the opportunity to share her voice as a parent (and sometimes as a professional) with other families and leaders in Vermont.

Amber lives in Wilder, Vermont, and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children, exploring the Green Mountain State while skiing, hiking, and kayaking. She also loves supporting local and New England sports teams, especially baseball—Go Night Hawks and Red Sox!

Renee Kelly

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.

Headshot of Carol Lang-Godin

Carol Lang-Godin

Lamoille Family Center

Carol Lang-Godin is the Executive Director of the Lamoille Family Center and a member of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network. Carol earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Johnson State College and has worked in the human services field since 1998. Her initial focus was on the early childhood years spending time in classrooms and as a home visitor for Children’s Integrated Services. She has since expanded her focus to include those beyond the early childhood years, but she will always have a special interest in the success of our youngest Vermonters and their caregivers. Carol grew up in Stowe, left briefly to enjoy the California sunshine, and now lives in Wolcott with her husband and teenage son.

Shayla Livingston

Agency of Human Services
Headshot of Erica McLaughlin

Erica McLaughlin

Vermont Principals' Association

Erica McLaughlin grew up in Rutland, Vermont, and left to study at Sacred Heart University where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts in Teaching. She taught in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for nine years and later returned to Vermont to be close to family and became an elementary principal at Randolph Elementary School for 17 years. Erica is now the Assistant Executive Director for elementary schools for the Vermont Principals’ Association. She enjoys supporting principals across the state by providing high-quality professional learning opportunities, coaching, and advocating for leaders and learners.

Erica also sits on the National Association of Elementary School Principals Race and Equity Task Force, is an active member of the CEEDAR committee, and is a committee member for the PreKindergarten Education Implementation Committee. Over the last decade, Erica has been an active volunteer in a variety of ways, including as a school board member for Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union and Barstow Memorial School, an Executive Council board member for the Vermont Principals’ Association, and a Rotarian. Additionally, Erica was a fellow for the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network where she built connections with leaders across New England and shared resources with school leaders across Vermont. Erica enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two children and volunteering with her yellow Lab, Cali, as a member of Therapy Dogs of Vermont.

Janet McLaughlin

DCF Child Development Division

Janet McLaughlin serves as the Deputy Commissioner for the Child Development Division at the Department for Children and Families. From 2021 to 2023, she served as the Executive Director for the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VTAEYC). 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.

Danielle Lindley Mitchell

Washington County Mental Health Services

Danielle Lindley Mitchell was raised down in the Gulf Coast of Southern Mississippi. She attended and graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After graduating in 2003, she decided to make the move to St. Albans, Vermont, to begin her career in the human services field. Shortly after arriving, she began working at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS) as an adolescent services outreach worker. As her passion and dedication to the field grew, Danielle pursued her master’s in social work from the University of Vermont. While in graduate school, Danielle worked for the Department for Children and Families for two years as an intern for the Vermont Child Welfare Training Partnership. After earning her master’s degree, Danielle returned to NCSS as the Parent Child Center Program Manager and acquired her LICSW.

Shortly after this, Danielle had her first child and is now the proud parent of two daughters named Harper and Sydney. As Danielle progressed in her role as the Parent Child Center Program Manager, she was able to serve as a member of the local Building Bright Futures Council and was instrumental in supporting the implementation of Children’s Integrated Services in the Franklin and Grand Isle Region. In 2015, Danielle completed the Results Based Accountability training offered through the Vermont Agency of Human Services and Benchmarks for a Better Vermont and is now recognized as a statewide trainer. In addition, she has received formal training with a central focus on leadership with an emphasis on change management. For six years, Danielle served in the role of Director of Children, Youth, and Families at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services. In 2024, Danielle transitioned to the Children’s Director at Washington County Mental Health Services. Danielle has been fortunate through her 18 years in the field to gain a wide range of experience through her role as a clinician, program administrator, and now director that will continue to impact local and state development of programs and policy.

Meg Porcella

Agency of Education

Christy Swenson

SAC Secretary; 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.

Jessica Vintinner

Agency of Commerce

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.

Cheryle Wilcox

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.

Miranda Gray

Non-voting member; Economic Services Division

Miranda Gray is the Deputy Commissioner for Vermont, Agency of Human Services, Department for Children and Families, Economic Services. Previously, she held the Deputy Commissioner role in the 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.

Aryka Radke

Non-voting member; DCF Family Services Division

Kendal Smith

Non-voting member; Vermont Governor's Office

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