Delta Regional Authority Graduates 31 Fellows from the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

September 16, 2022

Extensive, nine-month executive leadership program fellows composed of leaders in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors from the eight-state region.

MEMPHIS – Delta Regional Authority (DRA) today graduated 31 regional leaders from the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy, 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 regions. The 2022 DLI class was selected from a competitive applicant pool from all eight DRA states and marks the 18th year of DLI-trained regional leaders.

“There is power in human connection, and investments in people is an invaluable tool for creating change,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Dr. Corey Wiggins. “DRA’s Delta Leadership Institute brings together a diverse group of community leaders who soon realize that while their hometowns may differ, the challenges within are alike. What happens next is the cultivation of a dedicated, passionate leadership corps equipped with the knowledge and networks to bring positive growth back home to their communities.”

Since 2005, the DLI Executive Academy has provided leadership development to more than 700 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 Delta.  The leadership program empowers fellows with the tools, experiences, and networks needed to address local and regional challenges. 

The graduates participated in six training sessions over the past year, learning best practices employed throughout the Delta region for economic and community development in order to catalyze innovative solutions implementable in their own community and region. DLI fellows learned from subject matter experts in infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce development, public health, and other fields necessary to facilitate economic growth.

The 2022 DLI Executive Academy graduates are:


  • Aliquippa Allen, Demopolis | Executive Director, Rural Business and Training Center, Inc.
  • Nick Harrell, Butler | County Extension Coordinator, Auburn University 
  • Teirdre Owens, Northport | Outreach Coordinator, Office of Congresswoman Terri Sewell


  • Graycen Bigger, Pocahontas | Executive Director; AVP Community Development, Northeast Arkansas Regional Intermodal Authority; Farmers & Merchants Bank
  • Ryan Biles, Lonoke | Owner, Architect, Kudzu Collective PLLC
  • ShaRhonda Love, Mabelvale | Partnerships Director, Arkansas Children's Hospital
  • Hunter Sadler, Little Rock | District Representative, Office of Congressman French Hill
  • Cody Slater, Wynne | CEO, Wynne Economic Development Corporation 
  • Leonard Williams, Pine Bluff | Assistant Professor, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
  • Lindsey Wingo, Jonesboro | Executive Director, Downtown Jonesboro Alliance


  • Jane Bryant, Murphysboro | Professor of Political Science and Sociology, John A Logan College
  • Byram Fager, Energy | Executive Director, Southern Illinois Community Foundation
  • Sarah Gray, Carbondale | System Director, Business and Economic Development, Southern Illinois Healthcare
  • Roni LeForge-Croxell, Carbondale | Public Relations Officer, City of Carbondale


  • Cameron Edwards, Slaughters | Senior Pastor, Webb Memorial and Slaughters First United Methodist Church
  • Jason Lemle, Mayfield | President, Graves County Economic Development
  • Missy Vanderpool, Henderson | Executive Director, Henderson Economic Development


  • Kelsey Foster, New Orleans | Executive Director, Algiers Economic Development Foundation
  • Bryant Killen, Ferriday | Deputy Director, Lake Providence Port Commission-Tensas Port Commission-Vidalia Port 
  • Roderick Scott, Baton Rouge | Director, Intergovernmental Affairs, Governor's Office, State of Louisiana
  • Ni'Shawn Stovall, Baton Rouge | Project Manager, East Baton Rouge Parish School System
  • Jodi Taylor, Winnfield | Executive Editor/Owner, Winn Parish Journal


  • Gary Bass, Bassfield | Director, Jefferson Davis County Economic Development District
  • Gia Matheny, Hernando | Community Development Director, City of Hernando
  • Tonya Neely, Jackson | Director, Office of Apprenticeship, Mississippi Department of Employment Security
  • Tiffani Perry, Holly Springs | Chief of Staff, Rust College


  • Reneé Brueckner, Perryville | Operations Director, Association of the Miraculous Medal
  • Jill Rickman, Kennett | Human Resources and Communications Manager, Kennett Board of Public Works
  • James Sisk, Poplar Bluff | City Planner, City of Poplar Bluff Missouri


  • Allica Austin, Dresden | Assistant Director, Weakley County Prevention Coalition
  • Cody Behles, Memphis | Director of Research and Innovation, University of Memphis

DLI is administered as a collaborative partnership between DRA and regional institutions of higher learning. Upon graduation, DLI fellows become members of the Delta Leadership Network (DLN), which provides peer-to-peer engagement opportunities for continued leadership development, information sharing, and collaboration with more than 700 regional alumni dedicated to the future of the Delta region.


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.  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