The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) today announced the recipients of the Vermont Community Leadership Award, which will be presented at VCRD’s 2023 Vermont Community Leadership Summit on August 15 at the Vermont State University Randolph Campus.

The Vermont Community Leadership Award is presented each year to celebrate Vermonters who exemplify “dedication, integrity and honorable service to community and to rural Vermont,” and who have had a “transformational” effect on their communities. VCRD presents the award to highlight the work of community heroes who epitomize the best spirit of local community service, who volunteer their time, and who have made their community better.

This year, the Vermont Community Leadership Award is being presented to the four members of the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion initiative.

The driving force behind the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion include Norm Cohen, Bob Harnish, Barbara Noyes Pulling, and Al Wakefield – all community members and residents of Rutland County. All have deep roots around the state and bring humor, dedication, purpose, and integrity to those they interact with.

In 2020, Harnish and Wakefield decided to start asking every town in Vermont to adopt and implement a “Declaration of Inclusion.” The Declaration raises awareness about systemic racism, the importance of diversity in contributing to the state’s economy, and the need to be proactive in signaling that Vermont is a welcoming place. As of July 25, 116 towns across the state have adopted the Declaration. Over 70% of Vermont residents live in those towns.

“It is an honor to recognize this tremendous group of community leaders who are using their skill and talent to build a stronger future for all of us here in Vermont,” said Brian Lowe, executive director at VCRD. “This is a group of people working selflessly and with great humor in communities across our state.”

Approximately 500 attendees are set to gather for the 2023 Vermont Community Leadership Summit on Tuesday, August 15 at Vermont State University Randolph Campus. The award presentations will be presented in the morning between 9am and 9:35am. The awards will be followed by breakout sessions for Summit participants to connect with fellow community builders from across Vermont to build leadership skills, seek resources to help advance projects, and to think together on significant issues looking toward the future.

Registration is $50 per person, with options available for partial or no payment to register, if needed, by using promo code “PARTIAL” (for $25) or “FRIEND” (for no cost) at checkout. This event is meant to be accessible to all without financial barriers. The day includes lunch and a Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Party to close. Online registration will be open until midnight on August 6. Anyone interested in registering after August 6 can do so on site the morning of the event.

Register and learn more at

Please contact (802) 223-6091 or [email protected] for questions or more information.


Past Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award:
2022 – Brenda Torpy & Sarah Carpenter

2019 – Gus Seelig
2018 – Molly and Hank Lambert
2017 – Paul Bruhn
2016 – Rick Davis
2015 – John Ewing


Past Recipients of the Vermont Community Leadership Award:

2022 – Pam Parsons, Richford

2020 – Mike Strait, Island Pond and Des Hertz, Burke Hollow
2019 – Emily McClure, Craftsbury
2018 – Shannon Barsotti, Pownal
2015 – St. Albans Community Leadership: Liz Gamache, Dominic Cloud, Emerson and Elizabeth Lynn, Warren Hamm
2013 – Orly Munzing, Strolling of the Heifers, Brattleboro
2012 – Tara Kelley/Mark Foley/Paul Gallo/Mike Smith, Rutland Creative Economy
2010 – Marcia and Al Perry, Richford
2009 – The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick
2008 – Robert McBride, Richard Ewald, Bellows Falls
2007 – Monica Greene, Alburgh
2006 – Edgar May, Springfield