DRA graduates 8 Alabama leaders – Atmore’s Susan Smith among grads

From left, Victor Narusis, DRA Board Director (Illinois); Susan Smith; Amy Fecher, DRA Board Director (Arkansas); Leslie Ann Durham, DRA Louisiana Governor Board Appointee.

LAKE BARKLEY, Ky. – The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) recently celebrated 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 eight from Alabama, 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.

“I am so proud of these outstanding leaders for taking the time to complete the Delta Leadership Institute,” Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said. “Success begins at the local level and it is great to see such dedicated public servants learning new skills, which they will use to help their communities grow. Alabama is only strong because of our strong leadership at the local level. I pledge to do all that I can to support these local leaders in any way I can.”

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

* Carrie Banks, Montgomery | Communications Director, Alabama League of Municipalities

* Marcus Campbell, Livingston | Chairman, Sumter County Commission

* Cedric Campbell, Montgomery | Project Manager, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Inc.

* Winfield Ezell, Jr., Northport | CEO, Obsidian Creative Studios

* Darrio Melton, Selma | Mayor, City of Selma

* Maureen Neighbors, Montgomery | Energy Division Chief, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs

* Susan Smith, Atmore | Councilwoman, City of Atmore

* Tiffany Smith, Demopolis | Administrator, Black Belt Community Foundation

“A native of Alabama’s Black Belt, Governor Ivey is a strong advocate for addressing issues in the rural areas of our state,” Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Director Kenneth Boswell said. “I join the Governor in congratulating the Alabama graduates, and I thank them for working toward strengthening opportunities in Alabama’s Black Belt. These graduates will join a strong network of alumni, and ADECA looks forward to continuing to work with them to address our state’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 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