NEWS: Delta Regional Authority graduates 6 Louisiana leaders ready to improve their communities

August 04, 2017

Delta Leadership Institute builds capacity across the region

LAKE BARKLEY, Ky. – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) today celebrates 49 new graduates of the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) who will collaborate with DRA’s leadership team to continue helping create jobs, build communities, and improve lives across the Mississippi River Delta region and the Black Belt of Alabama.

The 49 graduates, including six from Louisiana, have completed the year-long DLI Executive Academy, a training program that brings together business and community leaders from each of the eight states served by DRA to gain the tools, experiences, and networks that will help them enhance economic opportunities in their communities as well as boost our regional economy.

The graduates have participated in seven workshops over the past year to help them understand the economic development needs of the Delta region, and build a collaborative leadership experience that emphasizes a regional approach to growing local economies and creating opportunities for the 10 million residents of the Delta region. DLI fellows learn from local, regional and national experts in infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce training, and other economic development fields, experiencing what is working to boost economies in the Delta region.

“The DLI Executive Academy is doing a remarkable job of developing leaders who have a passion for growing communities throughout the Delta regions in Louisiana and our neighboring states,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “Connecting rural communities to the kinds of opportunities that will help improve their economies, infrastructure, transportation and workforce training will enable millions of hardworking individuals and families to have the quality of life they desire and deserve. I’m proud of all of the graduates and am looking forward to seeing how they will use what they have learned to make a difference.”  

The six Louisiana graduates represent a diverse group of public and private sector leaders from across industries:

  • Sidney (Lee) Denny, Lake Providence | President, East Carroll Parish Police Jury
  • Leslie Durham, St. Joseph | Designee to the Delta Regional Authority, Office of Governor John Bel Edwards
  • Andrea McNeil, New Orleans | Deputy Campaign Manager, LaToya Cantrell for Mayor
  • Annette Straughter, Ruston | Lincoln Parish Police Juror & Site Operations Manager, Lincoln Community Health Center
  • Caesar Velasquez, Sterlington | Alderman, City of Sterlington
  • AJ Walker, Baton Rouge | Project Manager, Louisiana Economic Development

“The DLI provides stellar networking opportunities and training for future leaders who have a desire to improve rural communities,” said DRA Board Designee Leslie Durham. “Given its proven results, the DLI has grown into one of the most highly sought after learning programs. The collaborative environment enables everyone who participates to learn valuable skills they can use to create Delta communities that are vibrant places to live, work and play. It proves that we are stronger when we work together.”

A full list of the 2016-17 graduates of the DLI Executive Academy can be found here.

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 now includes nearly 500 members who understand the importance of regional collaboration, resource sharing, and innovative thinking.

DLI is a program of the Delta Regional Authority in partnership with three institutions of higher education from within the DRA footprint: The University of Alabama, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and The University of Louisiana Monroe.

About the Delta Regional Authority

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. To date, the DRA’s SEDAP investments, together with its state and local partners, have leveraged nearly $3.5 billion in public and private investment into local small business owners, entrepreneurs, workers, and infrastructure development projects. These investments have helped create or retain more than 37,000 jobs and provided water and sewer service to more than 66,000 residents since DRA was established. Learn more at


Media Contact:
Andrew Moreau