Delta Leadership Institute Welcomes 31 Fellows to New Class

November 07, 2018

MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA REGION – The Delta Leadership Institute (DLI), a program sponsored by the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), welcomes 31 fellows to the 2018-19 Executive Academy. The fellows will participate in the 10-month program to improve their skills in community leadership and policy development, promote regional collaboration and help drive economic growth in DRA’s eight-state region.

“These 31 DLI fellows are leaders in their communities and we look forward to the energy and ideas they will deliver to enhance economic development in the Delta region,” said DRA Chairman Chris Caldwell. “Their collaboration and teamwork will help them develop skills that will strengthen job growth and make our region and communities more competitive.”

The fellows, who were selected by their state’s governor and DRA leadership, represent a diverse cohort of community leaders. The class includes three members from Alabama; six from Arkansas; four from Illinois; two from Kentucky; five from Louisiana; five from Mississippi; one from Missouri; and five from Tennessee. 


  • Steven Layton of Brewton | Public Land Manager/Economic Development for the City of Brewton 
  • Veronica Triplett of Tuscaloosa | Director, Center for Business & Entrepreneurial Services at the University of West Alabama 
  • Martha Vignes of Montgomery | Executive Director for the Southeast Alabama Area Health Education Center 


  • Tiffny Calloway, Jonesboro | Director of Community Development for the City of Jonesboro 
  • Aaron Germany, Helena | Director of Career and Technical Education at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas 
  • Amy Hopper, North Little Rock | Program Officer for Winrock International 
  • Jennifer Reaves, Jonesboro | Community Development Specialist at the Arkansas Department of Health 
  • Eddie Thomas, Pine Bluff | WIOA Area Manager or the Southeast Arkansas Economic Development District 
  • Jordyn Williams, Lake Village | Program Technician – CDC Obesity Reduction at the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service 


  • Ted Gutierrez, Carbondale | Managing Director at the Jackson County Mass Transit District
  • Deborah Johnson, Mounds | Trio Educational Talen Search Director at Shawnee Community College
  • Steven McKeown, Herrin | President of Kindled Flame Ministries
  • Travis Zettler, Sesser | City Alderman for the City of Sesser


  • Raymond Hagerman, Madisonville | President of the Madisonville Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation
  • Dr. Michael Ramage, Benton | Director for the Center for Telecommunications Systems Management at Murray State University


  • Daryl Fortenberry, Monroe | Chief Executive Officer of Ghost Tactical
  • Staci Mitchell, West Monroe | Mayor of the City of West Monroe
  • Stacey Neal, Amite | Director for Community Competitiveness at Louisiana Economic Development
  • Rachel Shields, New Orleans | Chief of Staff at GNO, Inc.
  • John Thompson, Pineville | Community Development Specialist at USDA Rural Development


  • Christopher Hinton, Ridgeland | Community Development Manager at Entergy Mississippi, Inc.
  • Theresa Kennedy, Ridgeland | Senior Advisor at fifty-five twenty, LLC
  • Janie Mortimer, Winona | Project Manager at the Grenada County Economic Development District
  • Chelesa Presley, Batesville | Outreach Coordinator for Tougaloo College’s Delta HealthPartners Healthy Start Initiative
  • Lauren Wilson, Brandon | Community Development Officer & Compliance/CRA Specialist at State Bank and Trust Company


  • Brian Gerau, Jackson | Executive Director of the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce


  • Michael Banks, Brownsville | Attorney at the Banks Law Firm, P.A.
  • William Martin, Huntingdon | Doctor of Chiropractic at Southern Chiropractic and Acupuncture
  • Joey Mehlhorn, Martin | Parker Chair of Excellence at the University of Tennessee at Martin
  • Katherine Milligan, Memphis | Chief of Staff at Start Co.
  • Erica Plybeah Hemphill, Cordova | Founder & CEO of Medhaul and Clinical Informatics Project Manager at the Memphis Bioworks Foundation

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 31 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. 

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. 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. Learn more at

Contact: Andrew Moreau