Delta Regional Authority Welcomes 2019-2020 Delta Leadership Institute Fellows

November 15, 2019

Fifteenth cohort mobilizes 30 professionals across 8 states for the advancement of the Delta Region.

CLARKSDALE, MS – Today, the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) announced 30 Fellows selected to participate in the 15th cohort of the Delta Leadership Institute. They will join fellows from the seven other Delta states to participate in the 10-month DLI Executive Academy to help further their skills in community leadership, policy development, and regional collaboration to drive economic growth across the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions.

The Fellows will participate in an intensive ten-month executive leadership training program focused on developing competencies through site visits, best practice case studies, executive coaching and mentoring, and regional project development. The program consists of six multi-day seminars throughout the Delta region culminating with a graduation in Memphis, TN.

“DLI is providing the next generation of change agents with the skills and abilities to address some of the most pressing issues facing the Delta. I congratulate the Fellows on their selection,” said DRA Chairman Chris Caldwell. “The Delta needs bold individuals to develop and capitalize on the many opportunities available to the Region and DLI provides these individuals with the skill set to do that.”

The Program brings together representatives of the public, private, and non-profit sectors from across the eight-state Delta region. The 2019 – 2020 Delta Leadership Institute Fellows include:


  • Ollie Davison, Birmingham | Deputy District Director, Congresswoman Terri Sewell
  • Llevelyn Rhone, Greensboro | Founder, Greensboro Regional Opportunity Works, Inc.
  • Fenga “Yvette” Zheng, Livingston | Business Advisor, Small Business Development Center, University of West Alabama


  • Suzzette Goldmon, Monticello | Director of Hospitality and Tourism, University of Arkansas at Monticello
  • Andy Davis, Little Rock | Principal/Owner, New Water Systems, LLC
  • Gene White, Pine Bluff | Director of Retention and Advising, Southeast Arkansas College
  • Samantha Montgomery, Little Rock | Digital Coordinator, The Office of Attorney General
  • Susan Edwards, Little Rock | Executive Assistant to the Federal Co-Chairman, Delta Regional Authority


  • Deborah Barnett, Marion | Director, Business Incubator Programs & Interim Associate Director, SIU Research Park, Southern Illinois University
  • Jamie Green, Murphysboro | President, Murphysboro Main Street
  • Lauren Bonner, Carbondale | Senate Aid, Office of Senator Richard Durbin
  • Brooke Guthman, Murphysboro | Member Services Manager, Egyptian Electric Cooperative Association


  • Mason DeJarnett, Paducah | Territory Manager, Fabick CAT
  • Hannah Chretien, Barlow | Executive Director, Ballard County Economic & Industrial Development Board


  • Karen Burks, Metairie | Career and Workforce Development Trainer, Urban League of Louisiana
  • Byron Washington, Baton Rouge | President/Board Chair, NBR Now, Inc.
  • Brady Middleton, Rayville | Director of Business Development, Ascent Health, Inc.
  • Mary Kirk-Lewis, Alexandria | Business and Cooperative Specialist, Rural Development United States Department of Agriculture


  • Charles Williams, Jr., Jackson | City Engineer, City of Jackson
  • Linda Stringfellow, Cleveland | Vice President – Delta Region, Together for Hope
  • John Garner, Brooksville | Extension/Research Associate, Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi State University


  • Hannah Barnett, Puxico | Executive Director, Bootheel Regional Planning and Economic Development Commission
  • Shad Burner, Cape Girardeau | Project Manager, Missouri Department of Economic Development
  • Krista Snyder, Potosi | Executive Director, Washington County Industrial Development Authority
  • Kathy Medley, Sikeston | Executive Vice President, Sikeston Regional Chamber & Area Economic Development Corporation
  • Gregory Roeback, Washington | Chief Executive Officer, Great Mines Health Center


  • Kim Foster, Paris | City Manager, City of Paris
  • Joel Hassell, Brownsville | Superintendent of Schools, Haywood County Schools
  • Cody Woods, Lexington | Chief Financial Officer, City of Lexington
  • Brent Lashlee, Camden | County Mayor, Benton County

Upon graduation, Delta Leadership Institute Fellows will become members of the Delta Leadership Network, a peer-driven working group foster regional collaboration, resource sharing, and continued education to support addressing the Delta’s most pressing issues.

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 includes more than 500 community leaders who understand the importance of regional collaboration, resource sharing and innovative thinking. DLI is a program of DRA in partnership with three institutions of higher education in the Delta region: The University of Alabama, The University of Arkansas, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

About the Delta Regional Authority

Established in 2000 by Congress, the Delta Regional Authority makes strategic investments of federal appropriations into the physical and human infrastructure of Delta communities. Led by the Delta Regional Authority Board-comprised of the Federal Co-Chairman, appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and the governors of the eight states-the Delta Regional Authority fosters local and regional partnerships that address economic and social challenges to ultimately strengthen the Delta economy and the quality of life for Delta residents. The Delta Regional Authority works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region.

DRA Media Contact:
Susan Edwards         

DRA Program Contact: 
Aury Kangelos