Delta Regional Authority Announces 2022 Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy Fellows

November 16, 2021

33 community leaders from eight states selected for DRA executive leadership program.

CLARKSDALE, MS – Delta Regional Authority (DRA) today named 33 community leaders from all eight DRA states as fellows of the 2022 Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy. DLI is an extensive, nine-month executive leadership program that brings together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt.

The DLI Executive Academy empowers fellows with the tools, experiences, and networks needed to address local and regional challenges. Sessions led by local, regional, and national experts cover policy areas such as infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce development, public health, and other sectors necessary to facilitate economic growth in the region. As a result, DLI fellows graduate with improved decision-making skills, policy development know-how, strengthened leadership capacity, and a mutual understanding of regional, state, and local cultures and issues.

“As an alumna of the DLI Executive Academy, I know firsthand the importance and impact of DRA’s executive leadership program,” said incoming Delta Regional Authority Alternate Federal Co-Chairwoman Leslie Durham. “DRA selected 33 diverse community leaders for the 2022 Cohort, each with unique professional backgrounds to bring thoughtful discussion to the classroom and field experiences. In turn, they will graduate with a broader knowledge of regional challenges and the skill sets needed to create positive change back home.”

The 2022 DLI Executive Academy fellows include:

  • Aliquippa Allen (Demopolis, AL) | Executive Director, Rural Business and Training Center, Inc.
  • Allica Austin (Dresden, TN) | Workforce Development Assistant Director, Rural Health Association of Tennessee
  • Gary Bass (Bassfield, MS) | Director, Jefferson Davis County Economic Development District
  • Cody Behles (Memphis, TN) | Director of Research and Innovation, University of Memphis
  • Graycen Bigger (Pocahontas, AR) | Executive Director; AVP Community Development, Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority; Farmers & Merchants Bank
  • Ryan Biles (Lonoke, AR) | Owner, Architect, Kudzu Collective PLLC
  • Reneé Brueckner (Perryville, MO) | Operations Director, Association of the Miraculous Medal
  • Jane Bryant (Murphysboro, IL) | Professor of Political Science and Sociology, John A Logan College
  • Cameron Edwards (Slaughters, KY) | Senior Pastor, Webb Memorial and Slaughters First United Methodist Church
  • Byram Fager (Energy, IL) | Executive Director, Southern Illinois Community Foundation
  • Kelsey Foster (New Orleans, LA) | Executive Director, Algiers Economic Development Foundation
  • Sarah Gray (Carbondale, IL) | System Director, Business and Economic Development, Southern Illinois Healthcare
  • Nick Harrell (Butler, AL) | Economic Development Officer, Choctaw County Commission
  • Brian James (Jackson, TN) | Director of Community Development, Health Community, LLC
  • Bryant Killen (Ferriday, LA) | Deputy Director, Lake Providence Port Commission-Tensas Port Commission-Vidalia Port
  • Danielle Kimbrough (Tuscaloosa, AL) | Western Division Community Relations Manager, Alabama Power
  • Roni LeForge (Carbondale, IL) | Public Relations Officer, City of Carbondale
  • Jason Lemle (Mayfield, KY) | President, Graves County Economic Development
  • ShaRhonda Love (Mabelvale, AR) | Partnerships Director, Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Gia Matheny (Hernando, MS) | Community Development Director, City of Hernando
  • Tonya Neely (Jackson, MS) | Director, Office of Apprenticeship, Mississippi Department of Employment Security
  • Teirdre Owens (Northport, AL) | Outreach Coordinator, Office of Congresswoman Terri Sewell
  • Tiffani Perry (Holly Springs, MS) | Chief of Staff, Rust College
  • Jill Rickman (Kennett, MO) | Human Resources and Communications Manager, Kennett Board of Public Works
  • Hunter Sadler (Little Rock, AR) | District Representative, Office of Congressman French Hill
  • Roderick Scott (Baton Rouge, LA) | Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Governor’s Office, State of Louisiana
  • James Sisk (Poplar Bluff, MO) | City Planner, City of Poplar Bluff Missouri
  • Cody Slater (Wynne, AR) | CEO, Wynne Economic Development Corporation
  • Ni’Shawn Stovall (Baton Rouge, LA) | Project Manager, East Baton Rouge Parish School System
  • Jodi Taylor (Winnfield, LA) | Executive Editor/Owner, Winn Parish Journal
  • Missy Vanderpool (Henderson, KY) | Executive Director, Henderson Economic Development
  • Leonard Williams (Pine Bluff, AR) | Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Lindsey Wingo (Jonesboro, AR) | Executive Director, Downtown Jonesboro Alliance

Since 2005, the DLI Executive Academy has provided leadership development to more than 600 community leaders from diverse backgrounds, sectors, and industries to strengthen skills development, information sharing, regional collaboration, and improve the economic competitiveness and social viability of the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt. After graduation, DLI fellows will become members of the Delta Leadership Network, which provides peer-to-peer engagement opportunities for continued leadership development, information sharing, and collaboration with other leaders dedicated to the future of the Delta region.

DLI is a program of DRA in partnership with three institutions of higher education in the Delta region: Arkansas State University, the University of Louisiana Monroe, and the University of Arkansas.

About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to promote and encourage the economic development of the lower Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions. DRA invests in projects supporting transportation infrastructure, basic public infrastructure, workforce training, and business development. DRA’s mission is to help create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of those who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state region.

DRA Media Contact:
Shawna Blair