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.

Organizational Structure

The Delta Grassroots Caucus traces its roots in the mid-1990s to three major bipartisan initiatives dedicated to promoting economic development in the eight-state Delta region. First, the Mississippi Delta Regional Initiative and the national New Markets Initiative of the Clinton administration, which included all federal departments and agencies with domestic policy jurisdiction. Secondly, two grassroots coalitions of local leaders: one called the Delta Caucus that was founded in the mid-1990s, and another called the Southern EZ/EC Forum, including all Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities in the Delta region.

The Delta Caucus is one of the founding partners of the Economic Equality Coalition, which promotes economic, racial and gender equality, health care, education and diversity. This is a national economic advocacy organization organization with partners from New York, the Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland Mid-Atlantic region, Appalachia, the Midwest, Georgia, the Delta and Alabama Black Belt, Southwest Border, Native Americans, and inner cities in Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Baltimore, DC, and elsewhere.

The Clinton administration Delta initiative and the grassroots coalitions worked with each other and all other relevant institutions in the Delta, culminating in such milestones as President Clinton’s passages in his State of the Union address in 2000 calling for greater funding to promote the region’s development, the comprehensive Clinton administration report on the Delta published in 2000 (Delta Vision, Delta Voices: The Mississippi Delta Beyond 2000), the White House conference on the Delta in 2000, and Congress’ passage of the legislation creating the Delta Regional Authority, signed into law by President Clinton in late 2000. Since then, the networks of individuals involved in those two organizations have continued working in a bipartisan fashion with Congress and the Bush and Obama administrations, and now plan to do so in the Trump administration.

The Grassroots Caucus welcomes support from people of all persuasions and political parties who want to promote economic development in the Delta, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, parts of Alabama, west Tennessee, west Kentucky, southeast Missouri and southern Illinois.

The great majority of our work is educational/informational and NOT lobbying.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus is funded by private sector voluntary donations and is not affiliated with any governmental agency.

The only government funding over the years has been for a very small percentage of the overall budget for such matters as paying registration fees for government employees or other costs at conferences (all attendees have costs for food, meeting space, and other costs of each person who is there). During occasions such as the severe flooding in 2011 or volunteer work for victims of Hurricane Katrina, we work closely with any and all government officials on the non-partisan work of disseminating information about disaster relief efforts.

The great majority of Delta Grassroots Caucus activities are in the realms of education, communications, dissemination of information about best practices for regional economic development, and general advocacy.

On occasion, we do a certain amount of lobbying on urgent issues regarding the broad interests of the Greater Mississippi Delta region as a whole. We are not “lobbyists” in the usual sense of that word, as they are usually highly paid agents of narrow special interests.

In contrast, our partners are volunteers and a few modestly paid staff who support funding for programs such as SNAP, school meals, WIC and other nutrition programs, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Earned Income Tax Credit, renewable energy and green jobs, USDA Rural Development and other broad-minded initiatives for the progress of our region.

We are not a direct service 501c3 nonprofit. We are technically incorporated as a small business in order to maximize our freedom of expression. Nonprofits generally have limits on their freedom to address pending legislation or other issues that occasionally might be considered controversial in some quarters. We try to steer a middle-of-the-road, non-ideological and practical approach, but at times we do have to take a stand on key issues. We can’t please everybody all the time so we need to have maximum freedom of expression.

As a grassroots, private sector advocacy organization, our goal is to promote the very good work of nonprofits, small businesses, grassroots leaders and all the other fine organizations working in the Delta.

Executive Committee

  • Lee Powell, Executive Director and President (see brief bio below for Lee Powell) manages the activities of the Grassroots Caucus based on consultations with the board of directors, the advisory executive committee, and regular communications with grassroots leaders across the region and partners in the Washington, DC area; chairman of the board. Here are the executive committee members:
  • Brad Cole, executive director, the Municipal League of the state of Illinois; former Mayor of Carbondale; former aide to US Sen. Mark Kirk of Illlinois; Carbondale, Illinois, Delta Caucus board member;
  • Clifton Avant, Board Member, Retired after many years of service from Entergy; Recogized as Board Member Emeritus to acknowledge his many years of service to the Delta Caucus; President, AvanTech Services, Marion, Arkansas;
  • Millie Atkins, member of the DGC board of directors formerly Century Link, Public Policy Manager, broadband access expansion program across the Delta region, community leader and veteran Delta regional advocate based in Monroe, Louisiana;
  • Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas, board member, veteran Delta regional leader, former state senator, former aide to US Senator Dale Bumpers and Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas, board member;
  • Randy Henderson, Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, Public Affairs/Safety Manager, Blytheville, Arkansas;
  • Rodney Fisher, former domestic policy aide to US Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (Texas), Manager of Government Relations for the Texas Education Agency, 2002-2011; Consultant based in Alexandria, Virginia in the Washington, DC area on education and health care issues, Founder & President, Rodney Fisher Consulting; senior advisory executive committee member;
  • Kay Goss, former Associate Director of FEMA for President Clinton, author, educator, nationally recognized emergency management expert;
  • Wilson Golden, board member, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, the University of Mississipp, former Clinton administration Presidential appointee at the US Dept. of Transportation, attorney, Mississippi native now based in Georgia;
  • **Billy McFarland, Judson College, Marion, Alabama, Special Assistant to the President for Business Development, and senior Alabama partner for the Delta Caucus;
  • Josh Tubbs, Director, Marshall County Community and Economic Development, western Kentucky, advisory committee;
  • Alan Gumbel, president, Gumbel & Associates, Memphis, Tennessee (played an important role in the Lower Mississippi Delta Development Commission), advisory committee;
  • Gary Latanich, Emeritus Professor of Economics, Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas, Senior Adviser to the Delta Caucus for economics;
  • Harvey Joe Sanner, president, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Des Arc, Arkansas, senior farm policy adviser, long-time Delta regional advocate;
  • Mireya Reith, Chairman, Arkansas Board of Education, and Executive Director, Arkansas United Community Coalition, an organization focusing on issues regarding the rapidly growing Hispanic population in Arkansas;

Brief Bio of the Executive Director

Lee Powell, Director of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus; Presidential appointee in the Clinton administration (1995-2001), where he served as senior adviser to the Delta Regional Initiative on Secretary Rodney Slater’s staff (1999-2000), and Regional Economic Development Adviser to USDA during the earlier Clinton administration; formerly communications director and legislative assistant to the First Congressional District in the Arkansas Delta; Federal Judicial Clerkship, 1993-95, on US District Judge Bill Wilson’s staff, Eastern District of Arkansas; graduate degrees from the University of Virginia Law School and Graduate School; Phi Beta Kappa, Rhodes; Author of J. William Fulbright and His Time, a comprehensive biography of Senator Fulbright of Arkansas, foreword by President Bill Clinton (published in 1996); Powell has lived in four of the Delta states in his career (Arkansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Selma, Alabama; Memphis, Tennessee).

We would like to express our appreciation to Albert Eisenberg, Emeritus, retired; formerly senior Washington, DC adviser to the Grassroots Caucus; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Transportation in the Clinton administration under Secretary Rodney Slater; chair, Clinton administration Delta Regional Initiative; currently a member of the Virginia legislature; formerly chief lobbyist for the American Institute of Architects; Chief of Staff to former U.S. Rep. John LaFalce; Staff Director, Senate Subcommittee on Housing. He compiled a distinguished record in many years in public service and government affairs advocacy.