Delta Regional Authority

Delta Leadership Institute completes 2015-16 Executive Academy

Pictured (left to right): Chris Masingill of Delta Regional Authority, Lane Riley of Shaw, Shellie Michael of Jackson, Dr. Rolando Herts of Delta State University, Joshua Bower of Jackson, Amanda Allen of Clarksdale, Tracy Ausberry of Clarksdale, Jessie Whitley of Greenville, and Mike Marshall of Delta Regional Authority.

Pictured (left to right): Chris Masingill of Delta Regional Authority, Lane Riley of Shaw, Shellie Michael of Jackson, Dr. Rolando Herts of Delta State University, Joshua Bower of Jackson, Amanda Allen of Clarksdale, Tracy Ausberry of Clarksdale, Jessie Whitley of Greenville, and Mike Marshall of Delta Regional Authority.

Fifty community leaders have successfully completed the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy, a program of the Delta Regional Authority. The Executive Academy is a training program that brings together business and community leaders from each of the eight states of the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions for a collaborative leadership development experience, emphasizing regional approaches to growing local economies and creating opportunities for the people of the Delta region.

Each graduate completed leadership development coursework and field studies in the year-long program that included five sessions in Delta communities and one session in Washington, D.C.

Seven DLI fellows, nominated by Governor Phil Bryant and DRA federal co-chairman Chris Masingill, represented Mississippi this year:

– Amanda Allen of Delta Regional Authority, Clarksdale
– Tracy Ausberry of Delta Regional Authority, Clarksdale
– Joshua Bower of Mississippi Community College Board, Jackson
– Dr. Rolando Herts of Delta State University, Cleveland
– Shellie Michael of Mississippi Minority Business Alliance, Jackson
– Lane Riley of Delta Hands for Hope, Shaw
– Jessie Whitley of the City of Greenville
– Jessie Whitley of Greenville

Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center at Delta State with DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill (left) and Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall (right)

Dr. Rolando Herts, Director of The Delta Center at Delta State with DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill (left) and Alternate Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall (right)

“For our communities to grow and support strong economies that create opportunities for Delta residents, we need local leaders that understand the local and regional challenges that we face, as well as the networks and resources that can help identify solutions and address these challenges,” Masingill said. “The Delta Leadership Institute’s dynamic programming and ever-growing alumni network are helping to meet this need and empower our region’s leaders to make the Delta a better place to live and work.”

In addition to the program certificate, participants graduate with an industry-recognized certification in Crucial Conversations. Present for the ceremony were Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson Masingill, alternate federal co-chairman Mike Marshall, and Alice Perry, Gov. Bryant’s senior policy advisor and designee to the DRA board.

Gov. Bryant said, “I am grateful to DRA for cultivating leadership that will strengthen Mississippi, and I thank the graduates for taking an active role in improving their communities. Being from the Delta, I appreciate the importance of leadership for this region of our state.”

Members of the 2016 Mississippi Delegation at the Arkansas State Capitol. 

Members of the 2016 Mississippi Delegation at the Arkansas State Capitol. 

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 in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. Through the Rural Communities Advancement Program, the DRA has provided leadership development to more than 400 community leaders over 10 years and strengthened regional collaboration with its Delta Leadership Institute.

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DRA brings Mississippi community leaders to D.C.

Congressman Bennie Thompson poses with members of the DLI's Executive Academy

Participants pose with Senator Thad Cochran

Congressman Gregg Harper meets with participants.

WASHINGTON -- Members of the Delta Leadership Institute’s Executive Academy, selected by Governor Bryant and Delta Regional Authority federal co-chairman Chris Masingill, met recently with their congressional delegation and federal officials in Washington, DC, to talk about issues affecting the Mississippi River Delta region, including creating good-paying jobs, growing small businesses and entrepreneurs, and training a skilled workforce.

“Our cities and towns are important laboratories for policy development and economic growth in our region. To support smart, effective decision-making in our local communities, the Delta Leadership Institute is training and connecting our region’s leaders with the tools, network, and skills to improve the economic realities of their communities,” Chairman Masingill said. “This session in Washington, DC, provides them access to each of these and empower them to share their experiences back home and throughout the region.”

Executive Academy fellows were in Washington for the fifth session of the DLI Executive Academy, a year-long program for community leaders across the Delta that teaches leadership skills and prepares fellows to collaborate across state and local borders to address the most-pressing challenges of the region. This is the eleventh class of the DLI Executive Academy.

Those attending were:

Amanda Allen | Clarksdale, MS

Tracy Ausberry | Clarksdale, MS

Joshua Bower | Jackson, MS

Dr. Rolando Herts | Cleveland, MS

Shellie Michael | Jackson, MS

Lane Riley | Shaw, MS

Jessie Whitley | Greenville, MS

The meetings also allow these Delta leaders to interact directly with their congressional representation and discuss the policies and resources that they see as being most important to the region’s economic success, such as workforce development, access to healthcare, entrepreneurship, disaster recovery and resilience, and geotourism.

“I commend the Delta Regional Authority for fostering new leadership to promote economic growth and health care improvement throughout the Delta.  It was a pleasure to meet the members of the Delta Leadership Institute, who will use the leadership skills they’re learning to aid their communities,” U.S. Senator Thad Cochran said.

“I enjoyed my conversation with this group of new leaders. This and other leadership programs are vital to the future success of our state,” U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson (MS-2) said. “I tried to stress the importance of strong, competent individuals taking up the mantle of leadership in the Mississippi Delta to continue getting things done for the people they serve.”

“The DLI experience has been so educational for class members throughout Mississippi and the seven other DRA states. Participating in these DRA Hill visits is a highlight of my career and professional development," stated Jessie Whitley. "It was an honor to meet Senator Cochran, Congressman Thompson, and Congressman Harper and share with them the great work that DRA is doing in Delta communities. We also gained insights from them about how we can use leadership skills and connections developed through this program to better our communities. It was a win-win.”

"At the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, we're involved in lots of projects related to culture, heritage, and tourism," said Dr. Herts, Director of the Center. "I really appreciate the DLI Executive Academy for providing this opportunity to meet with our representatives in Washington to discuss ways that we can all help the region together. Without the Delta Regional Authority, which helps to empower so many here in the Delta, this would not have happened."

Lane Riley is the Program Director for Delta Hands for Hope in Shaw. Her organization provides after-school educational opportunities for school-age children in the town. "The DLI Executive Academy connects many Delta leaders and experts to address many of the issues and challenges effecting our region.  I will be able to use this experience to bring new ideas and information back to my community, and work with other leaders in the Delta to have a greater collective impact," she said. "Through this trip to Washington, DC, we were able to advocate for continued support of programs and policies that will have a positive impact in the Mississippi Delta. Participating in the DLI is beneficial for me, my organization, and my community, and I am so honored to be apart of this amazing program."


About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that is congressionally mandated to help create jobs, build communities, and improve lives in 252 counties and parishes in the eight states of the Delta region. Through the Rural Communities Advancement Program, the DRA has provided leadership development to more than 400 community leaders over ten years and strengthened regional collaboration with its Delta Leadership Institute.

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Herts selected for Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, will take part in the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, will take part in the year-long Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.

The Delta Regional Authority recently announced 52 community leaders for an intensive year-long leadership training program across the Delta region known as the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy. Dr. Rolando Herts, director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University, will participate as a fellow in the program’s 11th year.

Herts will join other DLI fellows from each of the eight Delta region states. Participants are nominated by their respective governors to participate in the year-long leadership training program.

“Our communities and region need strong local leadership to continue to grow and thrive. This is why DRA has made investing in our leaders a priority,” said Chris Masingill, federal co-chairman of the DRA. “I’m very proud of this class and what they have already accomplished in their own communities. DLI will only further prepare them to continue to lead.”

Over the course of the Executive Academy year, Herts will attend six sessions across the Delta region and in Washington, D.C. to engage in advocacy training, case study discussion, and on-the-ground field studies of priority issue areas for the region, including Workforce Training and Education, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Public Health, Transportation and Basic Public Infrastructure.

“I believe that it is my life purpose to continue to help improve quality of life in the Delta region through education and community and economic partnership development,” said Herts. “Becoming part of the Delta Leadership Institute will equip me with social and intellectual capital resources to serve our region more effectively and with greater impact.”

Since 2005, the DLI has worked to improve the decisions made by community leaders across the Delta by broadening their understanding of regional issues, building a corps of alumni that have a regional and national perspective, developing 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.

The newest DLI class is holding orientation this week and its first session of the academy in Memphis, Tenn.

The Delta Regional Authority 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 in 252 counties and parishes across eight states. Through the Rural Communities Advancement Program, the DRA has provided leadership development to more than 400 community leaders over 10 years and strengthened regional collaboration with its Delta Leadership Institute.

The DRA partners with Arkansas State University, the University of Alabama, and the University of Louisiana at Monroe for programming and organizational support of the institute. Learn more about the Delta Leadership Institute at dra.gov/leadership.

“The Delta region has been with me throughout my personal and professional life,” added Herts. “I am passionate about improving quality of life here through cultural heritage education, tourism and partnership development. I believe that the academy will empower me and others to accomplish this more effectively through collaboration.”

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