For immediate release (5/24/12)
Contact: Matt Ehlers, 919-250-4314
RALEIGH, N.C. -- As rural North Carolina continues to wrestle with a changing economic landscape, its communities have a new set of tools to tackle those challenges: 28 graduates of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center's leadership program.
The Rural Economic Development Institute is an intensive, three-month training program designed for rural leaders. REDI provides techniques to improve participants' leadership skills while imparting proven strategies to help put those new skills into action. This year's class included town administrators, community volunteers, extension agents and the president of a community college.
More than 800 rural leaders have graduated from REDI since the program began in 1989.
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REDI participants and their guests gathered May 18 at the Rural Center to celebrate the training's conclusion with a commencement ceremony. Rural Center President Billy Ray Hall impressed upon the graduates that REDI does not end with the final formal workshop. He encouraged them to keep in contact with one another to share their challenges and successes.
"The relationships that developed in here will be your relationships," he said. "When you pick up that phone, there will always be someone on the other end of the line."
Rural Center board member and REDI graduate Andy Anderson delivered the keynote address. He acknowledged that rural parts of the state face tremendous obstacles in their journeys toward economic success, but he encouraged the audience not to dwell on the negatives.
"People talk about what rural North Carolina is not, what is does not have," Anderson said. "I take issue with that."
Instead, he implored the graduates to work diligently in tackling local problems and to become agents of change in their communities.
"You have the future in your hands," he told them.
REDI 2012 graduates:
Barbara Baker is the town clerk in Bayboro. She is a Sunday school teacher and a member of several local organizations, including the Pamlico County Disaster Relief Coalition and the Farmers Market Association.
Randy Barrington is a quality improvement coordinator for Community Care of the Lower Cape Fear in Wilmington. He serves six counties supporting primary care providers in their efforts to improve the quality of care. He is married with a 2-year-old son.
Walter Bartlett is president of Piedmont Community College in Yanceyville. He has 26 years of experience in the N.C. Community College system and serves on a host of local boards, including those of Person Memorial Hospital and Person County United Way. He is married with two grown sons.
Vicky Bennett is a business owner who lives in Northampton County. She owns and operates a child care center, a catering business and a cleaning business. Bennett has two children who attend UNC-Chapel Hill.
Adam Brueggeman is a program manager for the Institute of Emerging Issues at N.C. State University in Raleigh. He work addresses North Carolina's long-term economic competitiveness.
Allen Castelloe is the town administrator in Windsor. Before retiring from the National Guard, his service included a year in Iraq. He serves on the board of directors for Vidant Bertie Hospital, Partnership for the Sounds and Lawrence Academy. He is married with one son.
Alice Clemens is a town commissioner in Star, where she is also involved with her local council on aging. She and her husband moved back to her grandparents' home after he retired from the military. They have two grown children.
George Collier is the program coordinator for the economic infrastructure program at the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center in Raleigh. He has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in public administration. He and his wife live in Harnett County.
Marla Coulthard is associate director of Central Park NC in Star. She joined the nonprofit after a career in journalism and publishing. Coulthard and her husband have two children and three grandchildren.
Brandon Cox is a livestock extension agent in Duplin County. He is a member of the Duplin County Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Duplin County Cattlemen's Association. He represented his Rotary district in 2011 on a trip to Uruguay.
Elton Daniels is the town manager in Sharpsburg. He played football at Furman University before starting a career that included stops at the Black Family Land Trust and UPS before arriving in Sharpsburg.
Rick Davis is executive director of the Graham Revitalization Economic Action Team in Robbinsville. GREAT supports community development efforts in Graham County through groups of citizen leaders. He is married with two sons.
Jonathan Franklin is the town manager of Maysville. He received his bachelor's degree from East Carolina University and a master's of public administration from Appalachian State University.
Jamilla Hawkins is a community and rural development extension agent in Edgecombe County. In this position, she supports the county's tourism initiative, works with small business owners and helps implement leadership development programs.
Vennie Himbry is director of the Bayboro Development Corp. Elected as a town commissioner in 2011, Himbry works through the development corporation to help people improve their credit scores and become homeowners. She has five children.
Reginold Jones is a business program specialist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Raleigh. Jones handles guaranteed loan requests and services existing loans and liquidations. He is married with two young children.
Dan Little is small business center director at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro. He took the job after retiring from a career in banking. He has served as chair of the local chapters of the chamber of commerce, the United Way, Lions Club and Elks Lodge. He is married with three children and five grandchildren.
Michael McNally is president of the Burke County Chamber of Commerce. He serves as a board member of the Burke County United Way, Burke Development Inc. and the Burke County Tourism Development Authority. He and his wife have three daughters.
Lisa Melton is an organizational leader for New Life Christian Faith Church Ministry in Morven. She is also studying theology at Liberty University. She is married with two children.
David Mitchell is senior technical assistance director for the N.C. Department of Commerce's Broadband Division in Raleigh. A former Marine, he also has owned music stores and worked in variety of communications industries. He serves as a mentor for children studying science, technology, engineering and math.
John Parker is a community development consultant in Raleigh. He serves on the boards of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, Good Work, N.C. Food Corps and the N.C. Fourth Sector Cluster Initiative. He is married with three children.
Ginell Rogers is the financial manager and project coordinator for distance learning at Success Dynamics Community Development Corp. in Farmville. She has a bachelor's in accounting and is working toward a master's of public administration.
Patricia Royal is a member of the steering committee for Warsaw’s participation in the N.C. Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program. Royal is a businesswoman who is married with three children. She and her husband have also fostered 172 children.
Kittrane Sanders is a community and rural development extension agent in Harnett County.
Caroline Sumpter is a member of the steering committee of Red Springs’ participation in the N.C. Small Towns Economic Prosperity Program. She is a graduate of Robeson Community College and has one daughter.
Tiffany Swenson is the coordinator for the Workforce Investment Act adult and dislocated worker program for the Triangle South Workforce Development Board in Sanford. She has a bachelor's in social work and has worked with victims of domestic violence and persons with HIV/AIDS. She is married with a daughter.
Stephanie Swepson-Twitty is president of the Eagle Market Streets Development Corp. in Asheville. She serves on the boards of the N.C. Association of Community Development Corporations, HandMade in America and Mountain BizWorks. She is married with one son and three grandchildren.
Cheryl Webb is executive vice president for strategy and business development for
Generations Community Credit Union in Durham. She is an active member of the
Raleigh alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and serves as treasurer of the PTSA.
She has one son.
The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop sound economic strategies that improve the quality of life in rural North Carolina, with a special focus on individuals with low to moderate incomes and communities with limited resources. The center operates a multifaceted program that includes conducting research into rural issues; testing promising rural development strategies; advocating for policy and program innovations; and building the productive capacity of rural leaders, entrepreneurs and community organizations.