Delta Regional Authority Graduates 2023 Class from Leadership Development Program

Delta Regional Authority Graduates 2023 Class from Leadership Development Program



September 15, 2023


Jessica Shappley


Delta Regional Authority Graduates 2023 Class from Leadership Development Program

Thirty-seven fellows from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors across the eight-state region graduate from the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

Clarksdale, MS – Delta Regional Authority (DRA) graduated 37 regional leaders from the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy, an extensive, nine-month leadership development program that brings together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions. The 2023 DLI Executive Academy Class was selected through a competitive application process led by DRA’s eight state governors and DRA’s federal co-chairman. 

“The Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy is an essential instrument for nurturing community placemaking and capacity building in the Delta region,” said Federal Co-Chairman, Dr. Corey Wiggins. “This program equips a dedicated and diverse group of leaders to drive change within and outside of their communities and accelerate prosperity across the region.”

Since 2005, the DLI Executive Academy has provided leadership development to more than 700 community leaders from diverse backgrounds, sectors, and industries to improve economic competitiveness and social viability throughout the Delta region. DRA created the program to empower a corps of leaders with the tools, experiences, and networks to address local and regional economic development challenges.

The graduates participated in six in-person sessions led by local, regional, and national experts and covered policy areas and skills related to public infrastructure, regional transportation systems, workforce development, coalition-building, and other fields necessary to facilitate economic development in the Delta. As a result, DLI Executive Academy fellows graduate with enhanced decision-making skills, policy development know-how, strengthened leadership capacity, and a mutual understanding of regional, state, and local culture and issues. 

The 2023 DLI Executive Academy graduates are:


  • Megan Blackwell, Development Assistant, Alabama Tombigbee Regional Commission

  • Mandy Guin, Special Projects Coordinator, Delta Regional Authority

  • Collins Pettaway, III, Senior Consultant, The Pettapull Firm


  • Joshua Agee, Mayor, City of Paragould

  • Kristi Hopper, Executive Director, Main Street Osceola

  • Ronald Hunt, Attorney, Arkansas Fair Housing Commission

  • Kendra Phillips, Consultant, Phillips Consulting Firm

  • Aaron Pilkington, Vice President of Strategic Communications, ARcare

  • Brendan Spaulding, Field Representative, U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman


  • Dori Bigler, City Administrator, City of Anna

  • Terri Bryant, Illinois State Senator, Illinois General Assembly

  • Josh Downs, Mayor, City of Du Quoin, Deputy Director of Outreach & Community Affairs, Illinois Comptroller’s Office

  • Quianya Enge, Research Assistant/Small Business Advisor, Illinois Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale

  • Terance Henry, IT Director, City of Marion


  • Corey Elder, Field Representative, U.S. Representative James Comer

  • Ruthann Padgett, Vice President, Madisonville Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation


  • Ben Armstrong, Director of Strategic Partnerships & Outreach, NextOp

  • Lindora Baxter, CEO, Xtreme Measures Women Business Center

  • Bryan Creekmore, Attorney, Guerriero and Guerriero

  • April Hawthorne, Executive Director, Baton Rouge North Economic Development District

  • Mark Herbert, Government & Community Relations, Louisiana Department of Public Safety

  • Derrick Johnson, Mayor, Town of Cheneyville


  • Otis Anthony, II, Mississippi State Representative, Mississippi House of Representatives

  • Edmund Buckner, Dean & Director of Land-Grant Programs, Alcorn State University

  • Whitney S. French, Director of Healthcare & Community Engagement, Teen Health Mississippi

  • Keandre Haywood, Financial Management Coordinator, Delta Regional Authority

  • Shelley Ritter, Executive Director, Delta Blues Museum

  • Tracey Rosebud, Mississippi State Representative, Mississippi House of Representatives

  • Alfonzo White, Director of Television Studio/Instructor, Mississippi Valley State University

  • Mary Williams, CEO, Urgent & Primary Care of Clarksdale


  • Kelly Brueggen, Director of Grants & Marketing, Washington County Memorial Hospital

  • Sara Ezell, Project Director, SEMO Health Network

  • Morgan McIntosh, Executive Director of Downtown Poplar Bluff, Inc., City of Poplar Bluff

  • Jeremy Tanz, Executive Director, Southeast Missouri Regional Planning & Economic Development Commission


  • R. Chad Davis, Owner, Davis Wealth Services

  • Amity Schuyler, Senior Vice President Workforce Development, Greater Memphis Chamber

  • Waletha Wasson, Program Director, A 21st Century Initiative: Oral-Systemic and Population-Based Health for All, University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Dentistry 

Additional information about DRA’s DLI Executive Academy is available at Delta Leadership Institute – Delta Regional Authority (


About the Delta Regional Authority

The DRA was established in 2000 as a formal framework for joint federal-state collaboration to promote and encourage the economic development of the lower Mississippi River and Alabama Black Belt regions. To fulfill this purpose, DRA invests in projects supporting transportation infrastructure, basic public infrastructure, workforce training, and business development. DRA’s region encompasses 252 counties and parishes in parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

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