October 26, 2017

Delta Regional Authority welcomes 51 new leaders into program that encourages regional collaboration

MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA REGION – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) welcomes 51 new leaders into the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) to participate in the 10-month DLI Executive Academy program. The academy helps fellows further their skills in community leadership and policy development to promote regional collaboration and local economic growth across DRA’s eight-state region.

“DRA is pleased to begin working with this new class of leaders who are committed to learning from each other and working together to improve our region and build a strong future for the Delta,” said Peter Kinder, alternate federal co-chairman of DRA. “DRA remains committed to investing in our region’s talent with tools, experiences and networking that will provide them with ideas and solutions to ensure continued growth and development in the Delta region.”

DLI fellows will attend six sessions across the region, visiting each of the eight states in the DRA footprint. They will engage in policy and program development, advocacy training, case-study discussions, and on-the-ground field experiences aligned with DRA’s priorities for the region. Those priorities include: transportation and infrastructure; workforce training and education; entrepreneurship and disaster resilience for small businesses and communities; public health; policy and governance; and culture and tourism.

The new leadership class began its journey this week with a session in Potosi, MO., to learn more about the region and how they can contribute to increasing community capacity across the Delta.

The fellows represent a diverse cohort of community leaders in local and state government, economic development, education and healthcare, business and industry, and faith-based and non-profit organizations. The class includes seven members from Alabama; eight from Arkansas; five from Illinois; five from Kentucky; seven from Louisiana; eight from Mississippi; four from Missouri; and seven from Tennessee.

The 2017-2018 DLI Executive Academy fellows are:


  • Greg Cochran of Montgomery | Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for the Alabama League of Municipalities
  • Johnny Green of Auburn | Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs at Auburn University
  • Quinton Harris of Tuskegee | Area Director for the USDA Rural Development
  • Joseph Oglesby of Monroeville | Mayor of the City of Monroeville
  • Kennard Randolph of Selma | Outreach Coordinator for U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell
  • Steven Sigler of Fairhope | Area Director for the USDA Rural Development
  • Brandy Wilkerson of Thomasville | Planning Director for the Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission


  • Len Blaylock of Warren | Executive Director of the Bradley County Economic Development Corporation
  • Gregory Dale of Wynne | Southern Region Community Economic Development Coordinator for the USDA Rural Development
  • Ben Gilmore of Crossett | Field Representative for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman
  • Mark O’Mell of Marianna | Executive Director of the Crossroads Coalition
  • Denver Peacock of Little Rock | Principal of The Peacock Group
  • Carla Sparks of Little Rock | Rural Outreach Coordinator for Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Erica Tait of Jonesboro | Director of the Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Ateca Williams of Little Rock | Deputy Chief of Staff of Internal Operations for Gov. Asa Hutchinson


  • Tiffany George of Villa Ridge | Executive Director of the Southern Five Regional Planning District & Development Commission
  • Tom Harness of Carterville | Owner of Harness Digital Marketing
  • Jenny Pruitt of Broughton | District Aide for U.S. Rep. John Shimkus
  • Karen Stallman of Ellis Grove | Director of Community Relations for Southern Illinois University Carbondale
  • Mark York of Equality | Finance Chair for the Gallatin County Board


  • Bill Bartleman of Paducah | Director of Special Projects for the West Kentucky and Tennessee Telecommunications Cooperative
  • Ron Burkins of Henderson | Assistant Vice President-Western Kentucky for the Community Ventures Corporation
  • Cynthia Elder of Fancy Farm | Director of Mayfield Graves Tourism Commission
  • Brad Warning of Calvert City | Deputy Judge/Executive for the Marshall County Fiscal Court
  • Angie Yu of Wickliffe | President of Two Rivers Fisheries


  • David Cavell of Thibodaux | District Director for U.S. Rep. Garrett Graves
  • Hunter Fife of Rayville | Manager-Ag Operations for Lamb Weston
  • Donna Isaacs of Campti | Executive Director of Campti Field of Dreams, Inc.
  • Lee Jones of Alexandria | Assistant to the State Director for the USDA Rural Development
  • Makesha Judson of Baton Rouge | Chief Service Office for the City of Baton Rouge
  • George Mack, Jr. of Ruston | Board Member on the Lincoln Parish School Board
  • Ardyn Thriffiley of New Orleans | President of Ardyn M. Thriffiley & Associates, Inc.


  • Eric Atchison of Jackson | Director of System Analysis, Research & Enrollment Management for the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning
  • La Shon Brooks of Greenwood | Chief of Staff & Legislative Liaison for Mississippi Valley State University
  • Jo Ann Clark of Ridgeland | Constituent Services Representative for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran
  • Jon Delperdang of Leland | Graduate Student at Delta State University
  • Emanuel Edmond of Greenville | Chief Monitoring & Compliance Officer for the Delta Regional Authority
  • Jean Gross of Vicksburg | Vice President/Community Development Coordinator at Trustmark National Bank
  • Tray Hairston of Jackson | Attorney with Butler Snow LLP
  • Bobby Morgan of Jackson | Economic Development Policy Advisor and Senate Liaison for Gov. Phil Bryant


  • Kelli Behrle of Perryville | Project Coordinator at the Southeast Missouri State University’s Economic and Business Engagement Center
  • Trish Erzfeld of Perryville | Director of Perry County Heritage Tourism
  • Jay Lancaster of Sikeston | Director of Public Works for the City of Sikeston
  • Hillary Starnes of Dexter | Executive Director of the Dexter Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development


  • Gwyn Fisher of Memphis | Regional Director for the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development
  • Lindsay Frilling of Union City | Chief Executive Officer of Obion County Joint Economic Development Council
  • Rob Goad of Martin | Project Management/Grant Writer for the Northwest Tennessee Development District
  • Moses Goldmon of Jackson | Executive Vice President & Chaplain for Lane College
  • Gwendolyn Kilpatrick of Mason | Mayor of Town of Mason
  • Lori Nolen of Huntingdon | Executive Director of The Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center
  • Theresa Woodard of Cordova | Owner, TWMed Consulting, LLC

Fellows were selected by their respective governors and the DRA’s alternate federal co-chairman to participate in the leadership training program through a multi-step application and review process.

Since 2005, DLI has worked to strengthen the knowledge and skills of community leaders across the Delta by broadening their understanding of regional issues and building a corps of alumni that have a regional and national perspective. Upon graduation, the 51 new members will have a toolkit of resources for addressing issues facing their local communities and providing the training and professional development needed to extend the pipeline of skilled local leadership within Delta communities.

“Every new class is an opportunity for participants to share with each other their knowledge of the Delta region and what’s working in their communities,” said Spencer Lucker, DLI director. “This year’s leaders are exceptional in their respective fields, and we’re looking forward to helping them learn together, work together, and improve their communities throughout the Delta region."

DLI is a program of the Delta Regional Authority in partnership with three institutions of higher education from the DRA’s states: the University of Alabama, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and the University of Louisiana Monroe.

About the Delta Regional Authority and the Delta Leadership Institute

The DRA is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives through strategic investments in economic development and infrastructure projects in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. DRA has provided leadership development to nearly 500 community leaders over twelve years and strengthened regional collaboration through the Delta Leadership Institute. Learn more at

September 5, 2017

Now Accepting Letters of Interest for DLN Continuing Education at Harvard

With nearly 500 graduates and members of the Delta Leadership Network, our region has crucial assets in each of the Network's members who understand the importance of regional collaboration, resource sharing, and innovative thinking. One of the objectives of the Delta Leadership Network is to foster continued education for Delta leaders. In support of this objective, Delta Regional Authority and the Delta Leadership Institute are proud to offer the 3rd continuing education training opportunity at Harvard University exclusively to the Delta Leadership Network this coming Fall. 

DLN members are invited to submit a letter of interest to participate in the Authentic Leadership executive education program at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from Monday, November 27-Thursday, November 30, 2017 (DRAFT Schedule).

The program is designed and led by Harvard faculty and focuses on cutting edge leadership principles in the U.S. More information on Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education can be found at

A full briefing of the guidelines and expectations of this program is available here: Harvard Experience Guidelines. Please make sure to read this document fully.

Your letter of interest must include:

  • A detailed report (no more than 250 words) of your involvement with the Delta Leadership Network and Delta Regional Authority since your graduation from the Executive Academy. Please include years you attended DLN Conferences and State Dinners;
  • A short narrative (no more than 250 words) on how DLI has influenced your professional life and your expected use of the Authentic Leadership training that you can take back to your community;
  • and An updated resume.

Letters of interest will be accepted until 5:00 pm on Monday, September 25. Letters of interest and attachments should be submitted via email to Andrea Allen at Meals, lodging, and tuition will be provided while at Harvard. Accepted participants will be responsible for round trip airfare expenses to the Boston area and transportation to and from the hotel and the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Please direct any questions to Spencer Lucker ( or Andrea Allen (


August 4, 2017

Delta Leadership Institute builds capacity across the region

LAKE BARKLEY, Ky. – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) today celebrates 49 new graduates of the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) who will collaborate with DRA’s leadership team to continue helping create jobs, build communities, and improve lives across the Mississippi River Delta region and the Black Belt of Alabama.

The 49 graduates have completed the year-long DLI Executive Academy, a training program that brings together business and community leaders from each of the eight states served by DRA to gain the tools, experiences, and networks that will help them enhance economic opportunities in their communities as well as boost our regional economy.

The graduates have participated in seven workshops over the past year to help them understand the economic development needs of the Delta region and build a collaborative leadership experience that emphasizes a regional approach to growing local economies and creating opportunities for the 10 million residents of the Delta region. DLI fellows learn from local, regional and national experts in infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce training, and other economic development fields, experiencing what is working to boost economies in the Delta region.

“Our DLI graduates will make lasting contributions to their communities and the Delta region as a whole,” said Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, States’ Co-Chairwoman for DRA. “Through the program DLI graduates have developed a rich network of resources, experiences, and colleagues that increase their capacity to go help move their communities forward. They have received field experience in all eight states served by DRA, which has given them a full appreciation of the challenges and opportunities our region faces.”

A full list of the 2016-17 graduates of the DLI Executive Academy can be found here.

Since 2005 DLI's Executive Academy has enhanced the leadership skills, policy knowledge, and networks of community members in the Delta region. After graduation, DLI graduates become members of the Delta Leadership Network, which now includes nearly 500 members who understand the importance of regional collaboration, resource sharing, and innovative thinking.

DLI is a program of the Delta Regional Authority in partnership with three institutions of higher education from within the DRA footprint: The University of Alabama, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and The University of Louisiana Monroe.

May 18, 2017

Delta Leadership Institute opens application cycle for 2017-2018 Executive Academy

CLARKSDALE, Miss. — The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) today opened its application cycle for the 2017-2018 Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Since 2005, the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) has selected a diverse group of community leaders across the Delta who are dedicated to improving their communities.

The application for the 2017-2018 Executive Academy is available now online and will be accepted until July 14, 2017. Interested applicants can learn more about the program and begin the application at

“The Executive Academy is one of DRA’s strongest programs to help communities advance economically and address some of the toughest structural challenges we see in the Delta,” DRA Chairman Chris Masingill said. “This program trains community leaders to identify regional solutions through collaborative partnerships with colleagues across the Delta region so that our local communities can compete nationally and globally.”

DRA developed the Institute in 2005 to continually develop Delta leaders committed to helping create jobs, build their local communities and improve the lives of residents. DLI provides professional leadership and policy training on issues that advance the growth and development of Delta communities. Participants explore strategies that help communities and economies grow, and are exposed to a network with opportunities to share best practices, collaborate and exchange information with each other.

DLI fellows attend six sessions over nine months, traveling to communities in each of DRA’s eight states. Fellows will learn from existing programs and community models, case study discussions, and grassroots organizing and community engagement techniques.  Field experiences focus on priority issues for improving the region, including infrastructure development, workforce training and education, entrepreneurship, disaster resilience, public health, and creative placemaking.

Upon graduation, DLI fellows become members of the Delta Leadership Network (DLN), which gives them opportunities to engage in continued learning, information sharing, and collaboration at regional levels within their state and across the Delta region. 

2017-2018 Schedule

Orientation: October 23-27 | Potosi, MO

Session II: December 4-8 | Memphis, TN/Clarksdale, MS

Session III : February 26-March 2 | New Orleans, LA

Session IV: April 23-27 | Selma, AL

Session V: June 4-8 | Jonesboro, AR

Graduation: July 23-27 | Paducah, KY/Carbondale, IL

*All dates represent the week the session will be held, but the class will only meet for 3-4 days during that week.

About the Delta Leadership Institute

The Delta Leadership Institute is a program of the Delta Regional Authority in partnership with the University of Alabama, Arkansas State University, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Through its Executive Academy, DLI has provided leadership development to 500 community leaders over twelve years and strengthened skills development, information sharing, and regional collaboration. DLI maintains an environment for continued education and engagement for its alumni through the Delta Leadership Network. Learn more at