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Vermont ACLU Expanding Under New Director

Earlier this year, James Duff Lyall of Tucson, Arizona, was named the new executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont. He succeeded Allen Gilbert, who had led the organization for 12 years.

Lyall is a Middlebury graduate who grew up in Massachusetts, but has spent much of his professional career in California and Arizona. Much of his work has focused on immigrants' right issues.

Lyall is not the only new arrival at the ACLU in Vermont. He says the staff is expanding to include, for the first time, a policy director.

“This is the first time that we’re going to be able to devote a full-time staff person to working on advancing our policy agenda at the Legislature and elsewhere in the state,” says Lyall.

“I think that, combined with the fact that we now have for the first time two full-time staff attorneys, we have a growing staff," Lyall says. "We’re going to be looking to increasingly expand our work, not just in criminal justice reform but across all of our issue areas.”

Lyall says some aspects of the issues ACLU confronts differ from state to state, but the issues themselves are prevalent everywhere.

“I really think it’s a mistake for anybody to just assume that the problems facing this country are things that happen elsewhere,” Lyall says. “The fact of the matter is that Vermont, like much of the country, has massive racial disparities, from school discipline to police arrest to incarceration rates. Vermont is behind the curve in many measures of … open government and government transparency.”

Lyall says Vermont’s tradition of self-governance, typified by Town Meeting and its citizen Legislature, means residents are generally well-informed and engaged on many issues.

Listen to the full interview from Vermont Edition above.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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