NEWS: Arkansas selects 8 fellows for Delta leadership program

October 30, 2017

Delta Regional Authority effort encourages regional collaboration

MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA REGION – Arkansas is sending eight community leaders from across the state to the Delta Regional Authority’s (DRA) Delta Leadership Institute (DLI). They will join fellows from seven other states and participate in the 10-month DLI Executive Academy program to help further their skills in community leadership and policy development to promote regional collaboration and local economic growth across DRA’s eight-state region.

“The eight Arkansans we have selected to participate in the Delta Regional Authority’s leadership program represent a broad range of education and life experience that has prepared them for this intensive 10-month study of the Delta,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “By expanding awareness of the issues to a new class of leaders every year, the Delta Regional Authority accelerates the search for solutions to improve and enrich the quality of life for the people who live in this important region of our country.”

Arkansas’s DLI fellows will attend six sessions across the region, visiting each of the eight states in the DRA footprint. They will engage in policy and program development, advocacy training, case-study discussions, and on-the-ground field experiences aligned with DRA’s priorities for the region. Those priorities include: transportation and infrastructure; workforce training and education; entrepreneurship and disaster resilience for small businesses and communities; public health; policy and governance; and culture and tourism.

“DRA is pleased to begin working with this new class of leaders from Arkansas who are committed to learning from each other and working together with their fellows from other states to build a strong future for the Delta,” said Peter Kinder, alternate federal co-chairman of DRA.

The fellows, who were selected by Gov. Hutchinson and DRA leadership, represent a diverse cohort of community leaders. The class includes seven members from Alabama; eight from Arkansas; five from Illinois; five from Kentucky; seven from Louisiana; eight from Mississippi; four from Missouri; and seven from Tennessee.

Arkansas’s 2017-2018 DLI Executive Academy fellows are:

  • Len Blaylock of Warren | Executive Director for the Bradley County Economic Development Corporation
  • Gregory Dale of Wynne | Southern Region Community Economic Development Coordinator for the USDA Rural Development
  • Ben Gilmore of Crossett | Field Representative for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman
  • Mark O’Mell of Marianna | Executive Director for the Crossroads Coalition
  • Denver Peacock of Little Rock | Principal for The Peacock Group
  • Carla Sparks of Little Rock | Rural Outreach Coordinator for Arkansas Children’s Hospital
  • Erica Tait of Jonesboro | Director of the Jonesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization
  • Ateca Williams of Little Rock | Deputy Chief of Staff of Internal Operations for Gov. Asa Hutchinson

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 51 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


Media Contact:
Andrew Moreau