The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Draft of Agenda for Feb. 5-6, 2009 Delta Conference at Clinton Presidential Center

Posted on January 25, 2009 at 10:22 AM

Gov. Mike Beebe, US Sen. Mark Pryor, US Rep. Mike Ross, the Hon. Rodney Slater, Kay Goss, a nationally recognized expert on FEMA issues, and many other leaders from across the Delta region are scheduled for the Delta Grassroots Caucus conference at the Clinton Presidential Center on Feb. 5-6, 2009. We have invited President Bill Clinton to speak to us over the audio system to give his ideas about how to bring about economic recovery in the Delta and the country. He did a great job in his presentation last year.

We will also have many other distinguished speakers, including James “Skip” Rutherford, Dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the opening on Feb. 5.

Then we will have two leaders who are in the unusual category of having known President Barack Obama for many years: Lisa Ferrell, a distinguished attorney in Arkansas who was a colleague of Obama’s from Harvard Law School, and Mayor Brad Cole of Carbondale, a Republican who has worked with Obama in a bipartisan way going back to his days as a state legislator and then US Senator from Illinois.

Congressman Mike Ross will then speak about his efforts to generate economic recovery in the Delta region and will have time to answer questions. As you know, Congressman Ross is greatly admired by our coalition for his longstanding service to our region.

Sen. Pryor, Gov. Beebe, Kay Goss, Secretary Slater, and other distinguished speakers will participate at the main session at the Clinton Library on Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, along with panels on economic development and infrastructure issues. President Clinton was invited to speak by audio at the luncheon as he did last year.

After Congressman Ross at the opening session, we will have a panel focusing on education, which is of course vital to long-term sustainable economic growth in the region. That panel will be led by Alan Gumbel, veteran Delta regional advocate and president of Gumbel & Associates in Memphis, Tennessee. Panelists will begin with Barbara Andrews, Director of Curatorial Services, National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, who will speak about the legacy of the civil rights movement in the Delta, with the election of an African American president 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Then we will have Tiffany Hardrick, principal of an innovative new charter school serving a low-income, predominantly neighborhood in New Orleans that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Ms. Hardrick’s work was recently featured in the New York Times.

The opening session will conclude with Regina Wilkerson, graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service who is doing public service activities in the Delta, and Tom Scheib, executive director of YouthBuild at Louisiana Technical College in Bogalusa, Louisiana, who is engaged in innovative activities for workforce development and education in the Delta.

The main session begins at 9 a.m., Friday, Feb. 6, 2009, at the Great Hall of the Clinton Presidential Library. We will start off with a “big picture” panel on community and economic development in the region. Of course the main concern for most people now is getting out of the recession. We will have three distinguished mayors to start off: Mayor Barrett Harrison of Blytheville, Arkansas, who is a member of the Delta Caucus executive committee and longstanding regional leader; Mayor Heather Hudson of Greenville, Mississippi, a dynamic young mayor from that important community in Mississippi, and Mayor Thelma Collins of Itta Bena, Mississippi, who represents a community that is typical of many other small, economically distressed towns across the region, and the economic issues she is dealing with are broadly similar to what many others face in the Delta.

We are pleased to have Robert Cole of the East Arkansas Enterprise Community, who is recognized as one of the leading rural development experts in the Delta region and served as a high-level Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration. Then we will have Ivie Allen, president of the Foundation for the Mid-South, one of the major nonprofit foundations in the region. We are also very pleased to have Larry Williams, head of the Delta Citizens Alliance, a new and very promising nonprofit organization based in Greenville, Mississippi.

Then we will have President Robin Myers of Arkansas Northeastern College in Blytheville, Arkansas, who leads his college with innovative activities such as the Great River Promise and is involved in a consortium of other colleges in the region. Then we will hear from Scott Curran of the Clinton Foundation on the foundation’s activities in the Delta region.

At 11 a.m. we will have State Representative Tommy Baker of Osceola, Arkansas introduce Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, who has led a series of education, job creation and economic development, renewable energy and health care improvements for the state of Arkansas. He serves on the board of the Delta Regional Authority. He will speak and then field some questions. He is widely regarded as having done a great job as governor.

Then we will have Speaker Robbie Wills of the Arkansas House of Representatives speaking about his initiatives for expanding health care to underserved rural areas in the Delta and Arkansas as a whole.

Minnie Bommer, rural development expert and long-time Delta regional leader from Covington, Tennessee in the west Tennessee Delta will speak about rural health care issues.

Jan Paschal, head of the Every Child Is Ours foundation and a former high-level Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration at the US Dept. of Education, will speak about her foundation’s constructive activities, especially for the young people of our region. She will bring along some of her young people to share some of their experiences with her foundation.

Then we have invited President Clinton to speak to us through the audio system on his ideas about economic recovery in the Delta region. He did so last year and condensed a great deal of brilliant ideas into a concise presentation.

The luncheon speakers are the Hon. Rodney Slater, US Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton and now a partner at the internationally renowned Patton & Boggs firm in Washington, DC; Kay Goss, former FEMA Associate Director in the Clinton administration who is currently advising the Obama administration on how to reform FEMA after the debacle of its inept performance in Hurricane Katrina, the tornado that struck Dumas, Arkansas, and other problems that agency has faced in recent years.

Then we will have US Sen. Mark Pryor, who has just become a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, and will clearly be a major force in the Delta and in the US Senate for many years to come. (If the Senate does have votes on Feb. 6 Sen. Pryor of course will not be able to make it back to Arkansas, but he has indicated he will participate if there are no Senate votes–we understand completely during this hectic time when the Senate has so many important economic recovery decisions to make.)

Then we have invited Leon Bramlett, a senior aide to Sen. Thad Cochran, senior ranking Republican Member of the Appropriations Committee, to give us a few comments about what Sen. Cochran is working on regarding economic recovery. Sen. Cochran is widely admired by people from both parties for his constructive leadership for our region.

The concluding panel will focus on transportation, housing and other infrastructure issues. It will be led by Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama, a Republican who is a personal friend of Sen. John McCain and someone who works very well with leaders from both parties. We are glad to have Bill Triplett, senior adviser to the Delta Regional Authority based in Jackson, Mississippi, and Johnnie Bolin of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council, both of whom are highly knowledgeable about infrastructure issues in the Delta.

We will round off that panel with Mayor Mike Marshall of Sikeston, Missouri, who has many years of experience in banking, infrastructure, economic development and has been a strong supporter of the Delta regional efforts for many years, and two housing experts: Lance George of the national Housing Assistance Council in Washington, DC, one of the leading experts on rural housing issues in the country. Last but not least, we have Kenny Gober, executive director of the McGehee–Lake Village Housing Authority and an expert on housing issues in the heart of the Delta. Kenny is also heavily involved in the tremendously important initiative to complete the Interstate 69 Corridor and the Great River Bridge.

We have a tremendous opportunity to make progress on I-69 and the Delta Development Highway System in the economic stimulus and the highway bill this year. Housing and other infrastructure issues are also vital to the whole economic recovery plan of the Congress and the Obama administration.

A full agenda is included below. Please note that there are always last-minute changes so this schedule is still flexible.

Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus

Annual Conference, February 5-6, 2009 Clinton Presidential Center, Little Rock, Arkansas

“Economic Recovery in the Greater Delta Region” AGENDA




5:30 to 5:35 p.m.— Introduction–Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus

5:35 to 5:40 p.m. Elizabeth Wiedower, Rural Heritage Development Initiative National Trust for Historic Preservation, based in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

5:40 to 5:50 James “Skip” Rutherford, Dean, University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service

5:50 to 6 p.m. Mayor Brad Cole, Carbondale, Illinois (Member of Delta Caucus executive committee, Republican leader in Illinois who worked in a bipartisan role with Barack Obama when he served in the Illinois legislature and later as US Senator from Illinois)

6 p.m. to 6:10 p.m. Lisa Ferrell, attorney and former state legislator, former aide to US Rep. Bill Alexander in the Arkansas Delta, and colleague of President Barack Obama at Harvard Law School

6:10 to 6:40 p.m.— Congressman Mike Ross, Arkansas


  1. Alan Gumbel, moderator, President, Gumbel & Associates, Memphis, Tennessee

  2. Beverly Robertson, President, National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee

  3. Tiffany Hardrick, principal of a charter school in New Orleans in a neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina that is now rebuilding and educating predominantly African Americans to focus on math and small business skills–her work was recently featured in the New York Times;
  4. Regina Wilkerson, graduate student at the Clinton School of Public Service who is doing public service activities in the Delta

  5. Tom Scheib, executive director of YouthBuild at Louisiana Technical College in Bogalusa, Louisiana



  1. Mayor Barrett Harrison, Blytheville, Arkansas

  2. Mayor Heather Hudson, Greenville, Mississippi

  3. Bob Cole, East Arkansas Enterprise Community, formerly Presidential appointee in President Clinton’s administration

  4. Mayor Thelma Collins, Itta Bena, Mississippi

  5. Ivie Allen, President, Foundation for the Mid-South, Jackson, Mississippi

  6. Larry Williams, CEO, Delta Citizens Alliance

10:40 to 11 A.M.–
President Robin Myers, Arkansas Northeastern College, Blytheville, Arkansas; the Great River Promise and the collaborative efforts of a consortium of east Arkansas colleges Scott Curran, Clinton Foundation activities in the Mississippi Delta region

11 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.—Rep. Tommy Baker introducing Gov. Mike Beebe


11:30 AM TO NOON—speakers on rural health care and other key Delta regional issues Rep. Robbie Wills, Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives—rural health care issues Minnie Bommer, rural development expert, Covington, Tennessee in the west Tennessee Delta

11:50 to noon–Jan Paschal, Every Child Is Ours foundation; formerly high-level Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration at US Dept. of Education


NOON TO 12:10 INVITED—PRESIDENT WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, with his ideas about how to bring about economic recovery in the Delta region (speaking as he did last year over the audio system)

12:10 to 12:30—Lunch served


The Hon. Rodney Slater, US Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton, now Partner, Patton & Boggs, Washington, DC

Kay Goss, Associate Director of FEMA in the Clinton administration, nationally recognized expert on emergency relief and homeland security issues

US Senator Mark Pryor

1:30 to 1:40 p.m. Leon Bramlett, senior aide to US Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), with comments on Sen. Cochran’s activities for economic development in the Delta


  1. Mayor Sheldon Day, Thomasville, Alabama (Speaker and moderator)

  2. Bill Triplett, senior adviser, Delta Regional Authority, Jackson, Mississippi

  3. Johnnie Bolin, Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council

  4. Clif Chitwood, Great River Economic Development Foundation, Blytheville, Arkansas

  5. Lance George, national Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC

  6. Kenny Gober, executive director, McGehee-Lake Village Housing Authority
  7. Mayor Mike Marshall, Sikeston, Missouri

3:10 to 3: 15 p.m.–Conclusion—Speaker to be determined