The Delta Regional Authority is continuing its partnership with Harvard Kennedy School to offer an advanced education opportunity exclusively to members of the Delta Leadership Network.

The program, designed and led by Harvard faculty, focuses on cultivating “authentic leadership” to move Delta communities forward. The Delta Leadership Institute will send 41 representatives from across the eight states of the DRA footprint, including Alderman Minnie Bommer of Covington.

This year’s four day-session, from Nov. 27-30, was led by retired Air Force Brigadier General Dana Born, co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at HKS.

“This executive training will equip regional leaders across the Delta with the latest advancements in leadership skills and will prepare them to make positive changes in their local communities,” said Peter Kinder, DRA’s alternate federal co-chairman. “These participants are alumni of the Delta Leadership Institute’s Executive Academy and were selected due to the leadership they have exemplified in their communities and their ability to translate these experiences to actionable solutions for the region.”

The class includes six members from Alabama; seven from Arkansas; six from Illinois; two from Kentucky; four from Louisiana; four from Mississippi; six from Missouri; and six from Tennessee. The group reflects the diversity of the Delta region and includes public, private, and non-profit leaders that have graduated from the DLI’s Executive Academy. Chairman Kinder, DLI director Spencer Lucker, and select DLI staff will participate with the delegation of Delta leaders in the continuing education session.

"I am so extremely pleased that I was chosen to go to Harvard," Bommer said. "I have always wanted to go the John F. Kennedy School of Government and to have this opportunity now, is an honor that words can't express. I attend the Delta Leadership Institute in 2013-14 and was selected from our class to be one the two commencement  speakers, I thought I could not feel any prouder, but this selection is one of the best experiences in my lifetime."

The 2017 Authentic Leadership participants are:


Susan Keith of Selma | City of Selma

Teresa McCall of Montgomery | Alabama Department of Mental Health

Donald Mills of Livingston | The University of West Alabama Small Business Development Center

Chad Nichols of Hoover | Sight Savers America

Gena Robbins of York | City of York & The University of West Alabama

Max Snyder of Northport | City of Northport



Mellie Bridewell of Lake Village | Arkansas Rural Health Partnership

Jennifer Conner of Lake Village | University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

Lynn Hawkins-Caldwell of Lexa | Arkansas Rural Health Partnership

Bevin Hunter of Wilson | Lawrence Group

Karen McDaniel of Jonesboro | Arkansas State University

Trudy Redus of Pine Bluff | City of Pine Bluff Parks and Recreation

Peggy Wright of Jonesboro | Arkansas State University



Brandi Bradley of Marion | Office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin

Lynne Chambers of Grand Chain | Bigler Law Office

Brian Chapman of Ava | Southern Illinois University System

Tracey Glenn of Herrin | Peoples National Bank

Jennifer Olson of Carterville | The Lookout at the Lake

Woody Thorne of Makanda | Southern Illinois Healthcare



Brandi Harless of Paducah | City of Paducah

Mark Lee of Madisonville | Paragon Development Consultants, LLC



Cole Avery of Jonesboro | Office of U.S. Representative Ralph Abraham

Leslie Durham of St. Joseph | Office of Governor John Bel Edwards

Adam Holland of Oak Grove | Town of Oak Grove

Heather Malone of Vidalia | City of Vidalia


Josh Bower of Jackson | Hinds Community College

Rolando Herts of Cleveland | Delta State University – The Delta Center for Culture and Learning

Tim Lampkin of Clarksdale | Higher Purpose Co.

Lane Riley of Cleveland | Delta Hands for Hope



TR Dudley of Potosi | City of Potosi

Steve Halter of Poplar Bluff | Greater Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce

Maude Harris of Sikeston | University of Missouri Extension

Kris Klaus of Perryville | Klaus Construction

Scott Sattler of Perryville | Perry County Economic Development Authority

Christina Wade of Caruthersville | Delta Regional Authority



Minnie Bommer of Covington | City of Covington

Julie Allen Burke of Milan | Milan Chamber of Commerce

Landy Fuqua of Martin | University of Tennessee at Martin REED Center

Travis Martin of Jackson | TLM Associates, Inc.

Bill Rawls of Brownsville | City of Brownsville

Kayla Taylor of Jackson | Younger Associates


DLI Staff

Andrea Allen | Arkansas State University

Shawnie Carrier | Arkansas State University

Leigh Hersey | University of Louisiana Monroe

Lauren Lewis | The University of Alabama

Since 2005, the Delta Leadership Institute 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. 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 and the University of Louisiana Monroe.

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. Learn more at

About Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Kennedy School aims to improve public policy and public leadership in the United States and around the world through research, teaching, and direct engagement with policymakers and public leaders. Nearly 20,000 alumni of the School’s degree programs and 44,000 people who have taken executive education courses at the School work in more than 200 countries. In addition, faculty, staff, and students of the School are currently undertaking projects to advance knowledge and strengthen public policy and leadership in dozens of countries. Around the world, the skills and energy of the Harvard Kennedy School community are dedicated to helping make people’s lives safer, more prosperous, and more fulfilling.  

Echo Day is The Leader's managing editor. To contact her, call 901-476-7116 or email