Melissa Vargas

Project Manager, Political Affairs


Areas of expertise:
Climate change, strategic partnerships, public health

Melissa Vargas currently leads Latino Engagement & Partnerships for the Environmental Defense Fund. As a part of the Political Affairs team, Vargas works to create political will and bold policies with leading Latino advocacy organizations to fight climate change.


Prior to joining EDF, Melissa served in the Obama Administration as the Director of Public Engagement in the Office of Public Engagement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Before this role, she worked as Deputy White House Liaison in the Office of the Administrator at EPA, where she supported the Office and the Agency’s Presidential appointees. As Deputy White House Liaison, Vargas helped develop, implement, and manage the Agency’s grassroots education and outreach initiative as a part of the EPA’s emergency response efforts to the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. By leading bilingual and bicultural community outreach efforts, Vargas was successful in building coalitions within Flint’s Latino and immigrant population.

Prior to working at EPA, Melissa served in the City of Oakland as the Community Services Manager in the Mayor’s Executive Council. During her tenure in Mayor Quan’s Administration, she played a critical role in passing ordinances that provided financial support to undocumented Central American children seeking refuge from violence in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. She also led the City’s first non-traditional recreation program to expose youth to environmental stewardship, sustainability, and environmental justice with Oakland’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Earlier in her career, Melissa worked in Arizona, California, Nevada, and New York as a community organizer, where she helped communities to advocate for issues such as family reunification, higher education, and green jobs and clean energy.

Melissa is on the board of Corazón Latino, a new non-profit organization that seeks to generate social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship.


B.A. in Communications and Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University