Leadership change at Ethan Allen Institute

Editor’s note: The Ethan Allen Institute, founded in 1993, is a public policy research and education organization in Vermont focused on free-market solutions. Like its storied namesake, the institutional character of the Ethan Allen Institute is highly principled and informed, mission-oriented, and not shy of conflict when necessary to pursue its worthy goals. This week, press reports have described December’s transition in leadership from Meg Hansen to Myers Mermel. Yesterday, VDC received statements from both Hansen and Mermel. They appear below.

Meg Hansen: “During my interview in late 2021, I presented a five-year strategic vision and action plan to significantly expand EAI’s annual budget, staff, operational capabilities, followers, and influence. Under my leadership as president, we began a comprehensive process to rebuild the organizational infrastructure by implementing a) reliable and innovative technologies, and b) data-driven and outcome-focused internal systems. For example, we developed a new data center and online government accountability tool called VT Votes to provide easily accessible and carefully researched information about important bills and legislators’ voting histories.

Meg Hansen

“We also created a formal grants program that would allow EAI to build new national coalitions, grow funding sources, and engage with charitable foundations and other grant-making institutions by demonstrating how our policy research, watchdog reporting, and public education campaigns serve middle-class and blue-collar families and workers in Vermont. This systemic restructuring aimed to build a powerful knowledge-sharing network and lay a lasting foundation for expanding EAI’s engaged audiences and sphere of influence. Effective think tank leadership combines policy prowess with vital skills in communications, fundraising, networking, and human resource management.

“Change is difficult and dramatic change all the more so. It can be excruciating when one’s identity is entwined with the status quo. I thank EAI’s staff and Board of Directors (current and former) who worked together in pursuit of these transformational changes.

“This week, the Vermont media reported the events that were recently orchestrated, including Mark Myers Mermel’s threats to ruin my reputation unless I handed my job to him. I must set the record straight about my tenure and the circumstances that led to its end. EAI’s varied stakeholders, particularly those who donated last year, deserve transparency.

“Given the multi-generational age difference I share with the founder’s wife, it is natural that she had reservations about my priorities and plan to rebuild the institute’s structural, media, and technological capabilities. When the Board did not elect her candidate for EAI president in 2021, it paved the way for initial stormy months. I hoped that my competence and character would make up for the lack of professional chemistry. I was encouraged when we reached a respectful agreement by the summer.

Myers Mermel

“The founder’s wife brought Mermel on the Board in the fall, without the usual vetting process, in an alleged development role. Five weeks later, Mermel declared himself as the new president in a repugnant email to me. He exaggerated the number and nature of the votes that he had secretly collected, and deliberately misrepresented my relationship with the Chairman and other Board members. It led to a grave internal crisis that I hoped we would resolve. Despite Mermel’s history of threatening and disturbing behavior and calls from various Board members for his disqualification from seeking the president’s position, he was not expelled.

“I refused to be coerced into resigning by Mermel and a formal vote was arranged. All EAI Board members (except the founder’s wife and the candidate who lost in 2022) expressed encouragement, gratitude, and respect for the progress we made in 2022. While some voted for me, the others explained that they would have to either abstain from voting or vote for Mermel to honor their 40-year relationship with the founder’s wife. I understand their need to cast loyalty votes.

“I do not understand the attempts to justify the unprofessional affair by assassinating my character. Notwithstanding the amplified rancor and turmoil over the last forty-five days (that caused an exodus of talent from EAI), I am grateful for the many valuable relationships forged, collaborative efforts furthered, and tests of character that I faced during my time leading the Ethan Allen Institute. I leave with the certainty that public opinion is shaped not by sitting down to write abstract white papers, but by standing up with integrity amidst real-life adversity.”

Myers Mermel: “The response from the Ethan Allen Institute is as follows: ‘The Board of Directors of the Ethan Allen Institute at its recent annual meeting held its customary election of officers. There was a change of leadership, and Myers Mermel was elected President. We thank Meg Hansen for her service and wish her well. The Institute does not comment further on personnel matters.'”

Categories: Elections

40 replies »

  1. Meg Hanson, there is a “club” as George Carlin has said and you ain’t in it… I urge you to keep the faith and continue your work, you are a good person and Vermont needs good people like you.

  2. So the Ethan Allen institute is again no longer controlled by a Vermonter and this time one who has even less of Vermonters values.

    Great another good Vermont institution has fallen.

    Seriously what’s left in the state?

      • I don’t believe that’s true. He bought the house in 2015 but had been living in New York up until this candidacy.

      • Brian is right. Myers Mermel lived in Manhattan and bought a second home in Vermont in 2015. Like many New Yorkers, he took shelter in his Vermont during COVID. He ran for the US Senate race in VT in 2022.

  3. Mermel paid people to vote for him in the Senate race. I am no fan of Ms. Hansen, but this is an insult to the Namesake. Are you serious ?

  4. People in Hanson’s position fire themselves. Its well known that her inability to garner more than a couple of Board votes is directly due to her haughty style, her inability to produce compelling content, and her inability to raise funds along with reckless spending. Finally, her statement above reveals a latent condescension towards long time and respected Board members. Hopefully she can regroup in Greenwich, CT where she resides.

    • Nice of Mermel to weigh in by using the cowardly veil of “anonymous”. Sounds like youre presenting information that would only be available to those on the inside and in the know…albeit with zero context.
      One is only a cursory Google search away from learning the character and goals of Myers Mermel. He is a charlatan and a bully who has had to buy his way into every position of political influence he has ever had and then, like a reverse-Midas, proceeds to destroy that position.
      This time will be no different.
      I was a member of the EAI board that hired Meg. I am truly discouraged that the board, what’s left of it anyway, went down this path.
      Mermel will use the Institute like a rental car and will leave the keys in the night drop box when he tilts towards another political windmill in 2024 and embarrasses himself with yet another cold fish run for office.
      Won’t comment further on personnel matters. That’s a good one.

    • This has to be Myers Mermel. He gave the boilerplate statement but posted his real comments anonymously so he can deny he wrote this. What gave him away? He said Ms. Hansen got fired. The only person who wanted her fired was Myers Mermel so he could take her job and use it for his own self-promotion. He said he could get 10 votes or more. The only people who voted for him are Anne McClaughry, Wendy Wilton, and he himself. The other 2 votes he got were loyalty votes to Anne McClaughry. What about the rest? They voted for Ms. Hansen or resigned because they can’t stand Mermel. If you have not read his email to her, I’d recommend it. You should know who the new head of the Ethan Allen Institute is and remember it when he asks you for donations. 

      From: M. Myers Mermel
      Sent: Monday, December 5, 2022 12:08pm
      To: Meg Hansen

      “I have received eight written proxies… This is a majority and it seems likely that I will be able to receive even more votes in the actual election, potentially ten or more. Regardless, the eight votes which are now in hand will make me the President. 
      At this point, you have two options. The first option is to resign the position of President and resign your Board seat immediately, citing family or health reasons. If you resign now I will make sure my proxies ensure you are paid through January 5th effectively giving you an extra month of paid leave. The second option is to wait until the annual meeting and election on January 5th. In that meeting I will vote my proxies and you will lose in a more public fashion. There will be no more leave available if you choose to wait for the election.

      I am indifferent to which option you select, as I do not believe either option damages or affects the reputation of the EAI. The first option may give you the ability to present to the public a different story than just a loss, but it is up to you.

      I am offering you until 5:00 pm this Thursday December 8th to choose the option to resign. If I do not receive your resignation via email by that time, I will act proactively to safeguard the reputation of EAI with its vendors, members, donors, grant makers, and partners by informing them that you cannot make ANY commitments on EAI’s behalf… and that your term will end on January 5th. If Thursday December 8th passes without your resignation, your public separation narrative will be what it will be.”

    • You’re wrong about her residency. She is a resident of Palm Beach, FL and Aspen, CO. She lives 6 months in Florida, 6 months in Colorado and the rest of the year in Switzerland.

  5. Is it no wonder that Regressives, er Progressives, rule with cult like status in Vermont? Every other political entity just eat their young. This story is just another example of non-progressives and others in Vermont fighting over the table scraps while they demean and hurt each other. Meanwhile, Progressive’s laugh all the way to their ruling perches in Mordor (er, Montpelier).

  6. History does not repeat — exactly. About 15 years ago, a new CEO exploded, and left a vacuum. I came on as interim. For what proved to be medical reasons, I performed very weakly, until Rob Roper came on the scene. We had, however, a strong identification with issues of personal freedom: advocacy of school choice, promotion of economic choice, and recognition that Vermont’s demographic cliff was creating very grave fiscal problems. We tried to focus on issues, not on parties. The intellectual segregation of Vermont since then makes cooperation hard, but the serious issues remain.

    • 15 years ago, a new CEO exploded. Don’t get that. When did she explode? Pretty sure this wasn’t an intellectual struggle. She was growing Ethan Allen beyond the founder’s control.
      How dare she bring youthful energy, new ideas and growth to Vermont! National rankings put Vt. last in the country and that’s how things will stay forever.
      Someone said Mr. Mermel paid people to vote for him for Senate. Wonder if he paid to snatch up this job.

  7. I feel for her being railroaded by the egotistical, misogynistic, chauvinistic person(s) who belong to this “club” as it has been referred. Having worked for someone in that club, it is impossible to achieve or be recognized for your worth.
    I wish her the best in her next endeavor whatever that may be and to Mr. Mermel, don’t worry, our good friend Karma will see you soon!

  8. Can’t agree with the commenters calling these events soap opera, drama, mud slinging. This article doesn’t describe what actually happened. Ms. Hansen’s comments are a shortened or edited version of her statement on her personal facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/articles/550482356992973.
    (full disclosure I follow her page)

    She responded to ultra-liberal, conservative-basher John Walters. https://thevpo.org/2023/01/16/a-bit-of-a-kerfuffle-at-the-ethan-allen-institute/

    Even if you are no fan of Ms. Hansen, can you get behind threatening someone to lie about their health and resign or face the consequences? If someone attacked me, I’d stand up for myself. Wouldn’t you? Why do you think Ms. Hansen standing up for herself is negative? Would you prefer if she let herself be bullied and disappear so that the left doesn’t laugh at us/ win? To those who can only see left versus right, saying anything about the right is a bad thing because it makes the left win. What about integrity? If we say nothing and allow people to be treated like garbage, then we lose.

    There is a right way and wrong way to do things. If Ethan Allen Institute was unsatisfied with Ms. Hansen’s work, they would have told her. She could have changed course or they could have mutually parted ways. That is not what Myers Mermel did. Now he is spinning the story to blame everyone but himself. Job Tate is right about the anonymous commenter.

    I don’t let political tribalism stop me from calling out what’s wrong even if the people in the wrong are a part of the political right.

    I will be watching Myers Mermel and EAI and keeping an eye out for his compelling content.

    Ryegate, VT

  9. Meg, they must be afraid they cannot control you or something. I remember when they pulled someone out last minute to run against you for Lt. Governor. RINOs play dirty.

  10. EAI traded Lawrence Reed, of the Foundation for Economic Education, and Meg Hansen for Myers Mermel? That’s like trading a Ferrari and a Porsche for a Ford Pinto. That exchange is maximum level stupidity.

  11. What a loss. Hanson’s integrity for Mermel’s dirty pool. His cards are clearly marked. He will use this as a stepping stone to whatever is next. He’s a liar. He hasn’t lived here as long as he says. And there were plenty of lies during his campaign too. Creep. He is part of the covid flock that few to VT and landed. Watch out, he will double cross others, stay away everyone! So very sorry, Meg, thank you for stepping up and for your service. We hope you will continue to pursue your good work; Vermont needs people just like you.

  12. To Meg Hanson:

    I respected Rob Roper and appreciated much of the work he did when he was president of the Ethan Allen Institute even though he was a bit of a cold fish. He wrote well and defended his position adequately, but he rarely kindled that spark in me to engage and join in the fight he was addressing.

    It wasn’t until I learned you were a candidate for the position he was vacating, that it dawned on me. What he was missing was what you had and if you were chosen you would bring new life to the job of president. Over the years as our friendship grew and strengthened, I most appreciated the caring, compassion conservatism you showed. You showed faith and trust in God on important life issues rather than being swayed by flawed human reasoning.

    True Republicans are hard to find in Vermont and your voice in the political arena is so needed. I am so sorry your skills and abilities have not had the time to leave their permanent mark on the Ethan Allen Institute. We are poorer for this. I loved your desire to serve Vermont as a “Real Republican” and your lack of fear shown it taking on the left as well as those misguided Republicans that included the “Phil Scott troopers.”

    I hope you won’t become so discouraged by this and other rejections you have experienced in politics that you will stop trying. You are smart, well informed, well spoken, fearless, aggressive and a shining light. You have strength of character, determination, are well grounded and on the right side of policy issues when they are morally right.

    Continue to do right, trust in the Lord, keep your priorities straight, putting Him first, then family and true friends and then these other things after that.

    You are exactly what Vermont needs most, so please don’t give up trying to break in and change things.

    Bob Orleck

    • The void in Vermont’s conservative, free-market-oriented, political leadership is now obvious for all to see. The Ethan Allen Institute (EAI) has joined the dysfunction so recently evident in the VT GOP. Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, and Blue Dog Democrats have nowhere to turn. Each group has reasonable and thoughtful points of view. But no one has been able to articulate and consolidate those positions… even though they are not mutually exclusive.

      Rob Williams touched on this issue during his recent interview with Guy Page. They sniffed around the edges as they discussed Vermont Daily Chronicle’s unique incentives promoting reader comments… because there is always something to learn when people communicate with one another.

      Milton Friedman said: “Indeed, a major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it… gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

      Perhaps Ms. Hansen, Mr. Orleck, and the many other commenters and contributors here on Vermont Daily Chronicle might consider initiating a new organization – because, clearly, the VT GOP, and now the EAI, have lost their way. Perhaps that organization already exists in the Vermont Daily Chronicle – Vermont’s free market of ideas.

      • Thank you to all of you that have expressed concerns about not only the situation with Meg and EAI, but the ongoing disaster(s) of the GOP in Vt. I was born and raised in Vt., and came back 15 years ago after spending my professional life in Calif. When I came back, and after about 6 months, I said “WHAT is going on with the Republican party in Vermont?” It was necessary for me to resign from one Board member position, as I learned that “some folks” didn’t want me in their “group”. Yes-I’m being cautious here, but I think that many of you will be able to “read between the lines”. Sadly, it has just gotten worse during the past 15 years! Thank you Guy Page for giving us this venue where we can share our opinions. I sense that Vermont Daily Chronicle continues to grow, and pray it will help save what remains of the TRUE Republican Party in Vermont. Sorry if I appear a bit emotional, but I am. Thanks Meg.

    • Dear Bob,

      Thank you very much for your incredibly kind and encouraging letter. 💖 This was a valuable learning experience – a difficult test of my character, convictions, principles, and purpose.

      I feel deeply moved and inspired by the heartfelt messages, including by the many readers here. Thank you, all! 🙏

      God’s guidance and your prayers and blessings will help me to get right back up.

      With Sincere Gratitude,

  13. Wow! I didn’t know there is a republican part in Vermont. Has anyone seen it. Sarc I lost faith when EAI was supporting the RINOs for election. We all know who they are. It appears that to to be a member of the EAI you must bow to the good old boys club and get permission from certain members. I noticed some censorship going on in the comments also. Unlike VDC that believes in free speech, I will have to reassess if it’s worth being part of a club that does this sort of thing to their president who appeared bright, talented, energetic and conservative. As the republican party slowly sinks into the Vermont abyss, some of us may make plans to get to hell out of this state. Disappointment after disappointment with this fake republican party, it just may be time to move on out. Good luck Ms. Hanson, you were appreciated by many of us. The last thing Vermont needs is another New Yorker running anything here.

  14. Meg is every bit as immature as she is arrogant. She was given a golden “equal opportunity” position to punch above her weight and she flopped.
    Now, they have an arrogant and aloof head of state.
    What’s up with all the carpet baggers? Malloy, Myers, who else?

    • Are some readers triggered by the glowing praise and respect she has from Vermonters? Jealous he doesn’t have it? Desperate to tear down a smart and passionate woman who against all odds fights to make difference in Vermont? It takes guts to tell the truth in public. Im sure she knew people will celebrate the dirty game and blame her for it. They did you wrong Ms. Hansen. I pray you grow from this and find the right place for your talents and calling.

  15. How closely aligned are EAI and True North Reports? True North has been extraordinaryly busy moderating comments about Dr. Frank the Fraud.

  16. After the exposure of the Lincoln Project, I am leery of all groups utilizing the name of great patriots and statesmen in their names. The well-heeled, highly-funded, non-profit influencers are not as they project these days. I did find a very good quote from Ethan Allen: “While we are under the tyranny of Priests, it will ever be their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in order to establish systems incompatible therewith.” Amen and Amen!

  17. Censorship going on here too. Did Vermont Daily Chronicle get push back from McClaughry? Why did Myers Mernel and McClaughry force every young person to leave? If the “youngest” people in EAI are 60s what “change” can you bring? It’s time to create a new organization but why would young people with talent do it in Vermont? We are priced out of living a decent life, the culture is sick and getting sicker, the left is tyrannical and the “Old Guard” of the right is no better.

  18. The Ethan Allen Institute has been a leading voice for Conservative principals in VT politics for years. The leaders and writers have addressed head-on the misguided Progressive agenda that has been driving VT politics, when few people were willing to make a stand and take the heat. They are a trusted resource we can’t afford to loose. I hope the management team at EA will come to their senses and work with Meg Hansen to get the train back on the tracks.

  19. As to the disparaging remarks regarding the VT GOP, it reminds me of a sports team when it is loosing – everyone is a critic and everyone is to blame – except for those who are responsible: in this case the voters. Lamoille County fielded 5 new House candidates for this past election, and none of them could garner more than 21% of the vote, despite a wide variety of backgrounds, experience, age, gender, and political leaning. Instead of feeding on each other Republicans and Conservatives need to understand how deeply indoctrinated our population has become, and how to reach these same people with a message that reveals the bankrupt Progressive ideology beneath the smiles and compassion, and Republicans vision for a better VT. Thank you Guy, and VT Daily Chronicle.

    • Re: “… reminds me of a sports team when it is loosing…

      Often times, especially when ‘the team’ is a persistent loser, the coaches and players are replaced, not the fans.

    • Perhaps the VTGOP leadership should make up their minds what they truly stand for and what they actually agree upon. After the Liam Madden “selection” (essentially throwing away our one Congressional seat) and Phil Scott dancing cheek-to-cheek with 10% China Joe over the past three years, I don’t find any reason to believe the VTGOP poses any threat to the opposition whatsoever.

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