The Virginia Rural Center Announces 2023 Virginia Rural Leadership Institute Cohort
Twenty-eight high-achieving individuals representing 21 rural localities have been selected for the leadership program’s second year.
Richmond, VA- The Virginia Rural Center is pleased to announce the participants in the second cohort of the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI). VRLI is the Commonwealth’s only leadership program that focuses solely on developing rural Virginia’s existing and emerging leaders.
“The Virginia Rural Center has long recognized the unique opportunities and challenges to living, working, and leading in rural Virginia,” said Kristie Proctor, Executive Director of the Virginia Rural Center. “Through VRLI, our goal is to create a space for aspiring leaders to develop skills, network with peers, and find innovative ways to support rural communities across the Commonwealth.”
There was overwhelming interest in the 2023 VRLI program. Through the application and interview process, 28 members were selected to participate in this year’s cohort representing 24 counties and cities across rural Virginia. These leaders bring with them diverse backgrounds, ages, employers, and skill sets that will assist the cohort in addressing issues they see facing their communities.
“The data is clear. Rural Virginia is losing residents every time the population is counted. The Virginia Rural Center created VRLI as a tool to help rural Virginians who want to continue to live and lead in their community find ways to better serve the community they love,” said Senator Frank Ruff, a founding member at the Center for Rural Virginia (CFRV) and current Chairman of CFRV.
This year’s VRLI program will kick off May 18 – 20th in Danville. Future stops for the program include Tappahannock on the Middle Peninsula, St. Paul in Southwestern Virginia, and Staunton in the Shenandoah Valley. During each visit, cohort members will meet and learn from local residents and fully immerse themselves in the area while building critical leadership, community, and economic development skills through programming and presentations from subject area experts.
“This year’s VRLI cohort brings experience in small business entrepreneurship, economic development, healthcare, local government, and more,” said Chandler Vaughan, VRLI’s Policy and Leadership Adviser. “Through VRLI’s focus areas and the engagement with rural communities, cohort members will be able to share their knowledge and experience while finding ways to take the next steps in their careers and also stay local.”
Along with the leadership development curriculum and sessions held in rural regions of Virginia, cohort members will complete Community Impact Projects. For these projects, cohort members will be paired with industry leaders as “mentors” to complete a project that puts their leadership skills into practice with the goal of bringing economic and community development opportunities to their community.
“VRLI embodies many of the characteristics that are inherently rural- building connections, finding common ground, and working together,“ said Bryan David, Chair of the Council for Rural Virginia. “The VRLI program relies on the work of the Virginia Rural Center and partners who have united to create each component of the program from the VRLI curriculum to the critical funding needed to sustain the program.”
Current sponsors of VRLI include Appalachian Power Foundation, Microsoft, Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation, Liz Povar of RiverLink Group, and the Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative. The Center is continuing to build its list of partners as excitement and interest grow for VRLI.
Meet Our 2023 VRLI Cohort
Listed in Alphabetical Order by Last Name
John Patrick Clair
Town of Marion, Chief of Police
Donna J. Dagner
Community Resources Services, Executive Director
Bay Consortium Workforce Development Board, Executive Director
Jessica K. Drake
Filanthropie Consultancy, Founder & Principal
Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Community Development Regional Manager
Commonwealth Regional Council, Deputy Director
West Piedmont Planning District Commission, Regional Programs Specialist
County of Louisa, Director of Community Development
Courtney L. Harper
Building Blocks to Success, LLC, CEO and Occupational Therapist
Spotts Fain Consulting, Government Relations Assistant
Floyd County Economic Development Operations Director
William Johnson, III
City of Emporia, City Manager
Shenandoah County Business Retention & Expansion Manager
Jamie Lynn Anderson Lindley
Comfort Systems USA MidAtlantic, Outreach, Recruiting, & Training Manager
Richmond County Department of Social Services Director
United Way of Henry County & Martinsville, Director of Financial Stability Programs
Town of Waverly Mayor
King George County
King George County Director of Economic Development
Dominion Energy, External Affairs Representative
Tazewell County Director of Communications and Tourism
Fluvanna County Director of Economic Development
Franklin County Director of Economic Development
Heart of Appalachia, Interim Executive Director
New College Institute, Executive Director
DEALTEK, Ltd, Chairman & CEO
Town of Luray Councilman
Rappahannock Community College, Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management
Dr. Terrence M. Wood
Greensville County Director of Human Resources
About The Virginia Rural Center:
The Virginia Rural Center is a collaborative partnership of the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia. These two organizations established a collective services agreement to work jointly toward the mission of economic prosperity for rural communities throughout Virginia. Together, the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia work with federal, state, and local policymakers and regulators as well private sector stakeholders to improve economic opportunities and preserve the quality of life throughout rural Virginia. Learn more about the Virginia Rural Center or the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute online at www.cfrv.org or on Facebook at @VirginiaRuralCenter, Twitter at @VARuralCenter, and Instagram at @varuralcenter or using the hashtag #VRLI & #GrowRuralVA.