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Board of Directors

Marty Roberts, President

Marty Roberts, who lives in Montpelier, has been a member of the VCIL board since 2002. She has been most recently employed at Washington County Mental Health Services as a recovery educator, and also does the same work at the Vermont State Hospital. She is a co-facilitator of the Adult Program Standing Committee for the Vermont Department of Mental Health, and is a longtime member and current president of the board of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. For fun, she enjoys music, art, writing, reading, travel and walks in the Vermont woods. Marty says that it is her privilege and pleasure to serve VCIL, whose staff are dedicated to cross-disability participation in the mission of independent living.

Sam Liss, Vice President

Sam Liss is a native New Yorker who has lived in Sunderland, Vt., since 1999. He has a degree in pharmaceutical sciences from Columbia University, with post-graduate work at the University of Connecticut. He was a practicing pharmacist before diverting his vocation to teaching after he began to feel the effects of a perplexing progressive neuromuscular condition. During his time in Connecticut, he became involved with advocacy for people with disabilities, mainly through an affiliation with the independent living center serving northwestern Connecticut and with its advocacy arm. More recently, Sam pursued the goal of work incentive legislation, both on a state and federal level. Sam joined the VCIL Board of Directors in March 2000. He was elected vice president of VCIL and chairman of the Program Committee in October 2001 and has been actively involved ever since. He is a member of the Statewide Independent Living Council and the Vermont State Rehabilitation Council. Sam has taught pharmacology for the last several years at the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center in Bennington as part of a curriculum that he co-developed. He has been on the staff and faculty of Vermont Technical College for 10-plus years – instructing human anatomy and physiology, pharmacology and various other scientifically-oriented courses within the nursing curriculum. His hobbies include producing and hosting a quiz show broadcast live on Catamount Access TV in Bennington.

Ed Paquin, Treasurer

Ed Paquin, of Barre Town, Vt., received a BA in the Study of Religions from the University of Vermont in 1975. He worked in various trades from silversmithing to carpentry, until an injury in 1988 took him off roofs and structures and landed him, two years later, into politics. He served 12 years in the Vermont House of Representatives and has, since 2002, served as executive director of Disability Rights Vermont (formerly Vermont Protection & Advocacy, Inc.), working to protect and expand the rights of people with disabilities. Ed enjoys playing music, sled hockey and handcycling. He believes that civil rights activism brings benefit to all of society, that common ground is good — though a disagreement now and then keeps things lively! He believes we weren’t put here to make life hard for each other and he dreams of a day when our contact with “the system” is a comfort, not a trauma.

John Pierce, Secretary

After many years working for the Vermont Department of Mental Health, John Pierce is not happily retired. John was an administrator with responsibilities for program and systems development, human resource development, financing, evaluation and grant writing and grant project directing. He had roles in Vermont’s public mental health system evolution over the last 25 years in programs for people with major mental illness, child and family mental health services, trauma services and various Medicaid waiver programs. He has a graduate degree (MEd) from the University of Vermont. During his time with the state, John worked with (and admired) VCIL for its commitment to helping people with disabilities, including mental health issues. John is enjoying retirement, spending his time volunteering with human service related boards and councils and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. John has had multiple sclerosis for 25 years and is in the so-called “late cane” stage of mobility difficulties.

Henry Demar, At Large Member

Henry Demar joined VCIL’s Board of Directors in 2010. A native of St. Albans, he worked construction from the age of 18 until suffering a heart attack at age 40. Henry said for years he has been trying to get laws changed to make life easier for people with disabilities. That’s why he was very pleased to become a member of an organization that fights for people with disabilities. One of Henry’s primary goals is making hunting and fishing accessible to all Vermonters. He would like to hear from anyone with disabilities who because of restrictive laws is prevented from doing the activities he or she once enjoyed. Henry lives and breathes hunting and fishing. He also enjoys taking photographs of wildlife. He is a former board member of the Sportsman’s Club of Franklin County.

Ronni Allard

Ronni Allard joined VCIL’s board in 2017. She grew up on Long Island, New York, where she received an associate’s degree in secretarial/executive studies from Nassau Community College. Ronni moved to Vermont in 1985. She works as a medical billing specialist for an Essex Junction-based company that designs prosthetics and orthotics. Ronni became a below-the-knee amputee in November 2016 as the result of complications resulting from a motorcycle accident. As to why she joined VCIL’s board, she said that becoming disabled made her realize that people with disabilities struggle every day because of needless physical barriers. “Advocacy is my mission,” she says. An avid reader, Ronni lives in Burlington. She and her husband, Mark, enjoy traveling and long motorcycle rides. Ronni also enjoys providing peer support to other people who have sustained injuries in motorcycle accidents.

Zachary Hughes

Zack Hughes was born in Texas. For the last 29 years, he has lived in Central Vermont. He currently works in the field of peer support. He cosupervises two programs at Washington County Mental Health Services, a crisis bed and a peer line, and runs a volunteer-based nonprofit that promotes peer services. A graduate of Montpelier High School Class of 1998, he went on to complete a general business course and has completed many trainings, both work- and board-related. He has served on many boards and one governor-appointed committee. Asked about joining the VCIL board, he replied, “I want to honor my mom’s service here.” Jean Mankowsky-Upham was executive director from 1982-1986. She was a steadfast and visionary advocate for participant-directed attendant care and a passionate and persuasive advocate for full implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some disability issues that Zack is especially passionate about include ADA issues and service animals/emotional support animal issues. He regularly consults on cases. In his free time, he likes to write, read and travel. He has a regular presence on Facebook.

Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie

Sefakor Komabu-PomeyieSefakor Komabu-Pomeyie is a professional teacher and a disability rights activist from Ghana. She became familiar with VCIL when she served as an intern in 2012. She joined VCIL’s board in 2017 because she wants to help foster passion for self-empowerment and leadership opportunities for people with disabilities and other disadvantaged communities. She is especially interested in youth-related advocacy initiatives and expanding people’s worldviews. Sefakor contracted polio as a child and her physical disability, combined with her experience working with different groups of people with disabilities across various cultures, has given her a very unique perspective. She is a published author and has received many awards over the course of her academic and professional career. She is a Ford Fellow with other national and International awards, such as the International Alliance for Women Award. Currently, she is living in Colchester, Vt., while pursuing her PhD in the Educational Leadership and Policies Study Department at the University of Vermont. She has a master of arts (Policy Analysis and Advocacy Major) from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro and a bachelor of arts (French and English major) from the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. She also pursued a one-year Certificate Course in Human Rights for People with Disability Organizational Development from Egmont Hojskolen-Denmark. Sefakor is the founder of Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa, a nonprofit organization that seeks to effect positive change for people with disabilities in Africa. She speaks four languages.

Maureen Mayo

maureen mayo w poster 3Maureen Mayo joined VCIL’s Board of Directors in 2016. She lives with her husband, Bill, in Northfield, Vt. A longtime champion of the disability rights movement, in 1985 Maureen sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. She spent three years in a rehab hospital in Boston before being discharged into an apartment to live independently. In her post-disability life, Maureen, a former marathon runner, needed to find an outlet for her boundless energy. She decided to focus on disability work and joined VCIL in 1995 as a peer advocate counselor. In 1996, she became an advocacy specialist for VCIL. Maureen retired in 2011 and is pleased to be back as a board member because she thinks VCIL’s mission is important and should be broadcast to as many people as possible. “In a way, I don’t feel like I ever left,” she says.

Irving Payne

Irving5Irving Payne of Jeffersonville, Vt., became a VCIL board member in the summer of 2016. He grew up in Paterson, N.J., and has also spent time in New York City, where he worked in the music industry as a studio vocalist. Irving studied music at Bronx Community College and also attended SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was in a few bands, even serving as a lead vocalist for one called Mystic Touch that put out a hit record in 1980. Living a rock-and-roll lifestyle, Irving got into trouble with drugs and alcohol (a problem that he overcame years ago) and as a result, has a compromised liver. Irving moved to Vermont in 1996 and promptly fell in love with the Green Mountain State. Over the past few years, he has held a variety of jobs, including as a sheet metal worker. He has recently started a video production company and wants to use his filmmaking skills to help raise awareness that, as he puts it, people with disabilities have a right to live with dignity—just like everyone else. While Irving is committed to the disability rights movement, the most important thing in his life is his two children, Maleena and Gabriel.

Bryan Pritchard

Bryan Pritchard resizedBryan Pritchard of Morrisville is currently employed by The National Life Group, selling solutions to everyday problems via life insurance and annuities. For fun, he enjoys sports, music, relaxing with friends and travel. He is excited and honored to be a board member of VCIL, an organization that truly helps those in need.


Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder became a VCIL board member in 2011. Born and raised in Putney, he has lived in Brattleboro for the past few years. He has tried to help people all of his life, including during the 15 years he worked as an EMT. Gary has been retired since a fall in 2006 left him with a spinal cord injury. His disability has not kept him from being extremely active in his community. He serves on Brattleboro’s ADA Advisory Committee, which has worked, among other things, to improve the town’s sidewalks. He is also a familiar face at Brattleboro Board of Selectmen meetings. Gary says he wants to improve life for everyone, and that is part of the reason he is constantly spreading the word about VCIL’s programs. In his free time, Gary enjoys fishing, being outdoors and cheering for the Miami Dolphins.

John Vincenty

John Vincenty was born with cerebral palsy and throughout his life has had his fair share of ups and downs with people who had minimal understanding of what his needs are. Life has not always been easy for John. He has moved around between several different facilities and homes and lived in a group home for about 11 years, until January 2017. He has lived with many different people with many different needs. He learned to advocate for himself and was able to get the support he needed to relocate and begin to truly live. John worries that if America stays on its current path, future generations will revert to the old days when times were tougher for people with disabilities. He hopes that by advocating for himself and for others, he can make a difference. He joined VCIL’s board because he wants to represent those who can’t speak up for themselves. In his free time, John enjoys competing in Special Olympics, where he has medaled in skiing. He recently tried kayaking for the first time, thanks to the Northeast Disabled Athletic Association. He got his high school diploma in Carmel, New York, and is currently working on getting into college, where he would like to study human services.