The institute offers a unique opportunity for local leaders in business, government, economic development, and civic and grassroots organizations to broaden their understanding of rural community and economic development and to hone their personal leadership skills. Participants attend three sessions during the course of three months.


The program is based on a comprehensive approach to economic development that includes education and training of the rural work force; business growth and development; expansion of physical infrastructure; and improvements in health care, housing, childcare, and other basic services.


Since its inception in 1989, the institute has graduated 663 leaders.


Members of the 2004 graduating class include:

Alexander David A. Icenhour, Taylorsville; Ashe Carol B. Dodson, West Jefferson; Kenneth T. McFadyen, West Jefferson; Beaufort Bianca T. Gentile, Washington; Ross M. Steckley, Washington; Bladen David M. Smitherman, Elizabethtown; Brunswick Resea B. Willis, Leland; Buncombe Geoffrey Willett, Asheville; Linda Giltz, Asheville; Burke Jasper W. Hemphill Jr., Morganton; Columbus Tracey Troy, Whiteville; Craven Tharesa Chadwick Lee, New Bern; Davie Rodney Holman, Advance; Durham LaTasha Best-Gaddy, Durham; Forsyth James T. Webb Jr., Walkertown; Graham Beverly Whitehead, Robbinsville; Granville Elaine G. McKelly, Oxford; Greene Allison Wilkes Thomas, Snow Hill; Harnett Timothy J. Hart, Dunn; Hertford Lynn W. Johnson, Murfreesboro; Jacqueline E. Melton, Murfreesboro; Hyde Michael Adams, Engelhard; Mecklenburg Pepper Bego, Charlotte; Onslow Tracey Brown, Jacksonville; Christopher H. Washington, Jacksonville; Pasquotank Hasani Jabari Mackey, Elizabeth City; Vance Marolyn Davis Rasheed, Henderson; Sara C. Wester, Henderson; Wake Angie Bailey, Raleigh; Martha Glass, Raleigh.


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 multi-faceted 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.


REDI XIV Participant Biographies

Michael Adams is the founder and board chair of Davis Ventures Corp. In addition, Adams founded the Davis Youth Recreation Community and Cultural Affairs Resource Center. He is actively involved in community and civic groups in Hyde County.


Angie Bailey has worked at the Rural Center with the e-NC Authority for three years. She is a graduate of Guilford College.


Pepper Bego works as a housing specialist with the Affordable Housing Group in Charlotte. An Ohio native, Bego is a graduate of Davidson College.


LaTasha L. Best-Gaddy works for the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development in Durham. She is a certified N.C. REAL instructor, and recently earned a masters' degree in public administration.


Tracey Brown is the executive director of Onslow County Health Improvement Process. Previously, Brown worked in marketing and advertising. She is a board member of Eastern Carolina Workforce Development and is involved with many civic organizations.


Carol Dodson is a professional commercial property manager and developer. She has also been a dedicated volunteer in Ashe County, currently serving as the president of West Jefferson's Revitalization Committee and on the board of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce.


Bianca Gentile is director of the Beaufort County Program for the Rural Carolinas. After graduating from East Carolina University in 1999, Gentile joined the Peace Corps where she raised money to improve conditions in rural El Salvador.


Linda Giltz works with Land-of-Sky Regional Council in Asheville. Previously, she worked for Cabarrus County in economic development and county planning positions, as well as at UNC-Charlotte's Urban Institute. She is chair of the Asheville Greenway Commission.


Martha Glass manages the new Agritourism Office located within the N.C. Department of Agriculture. Glass is actively involved in Farm Writers and Broadcasters.


Timothy Hart works as the director of training for the Hope Development Center. Hart is also the Treasurer for the African American Democratic Caucus of Harnett County. A Fayetteville native, Hart is an Army veteran and graduate of Shaw University.


Jasper Hemphill works as the director of operations for the Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation in Morganton. Hemphill is an Army veteran.


Rodney Holman is the executive director of Poets in Public Service. Holman is a former Coro Public Policy Fellow. Holman's poetry is featured in a Word Up! poetry poster project in Winston-Salem Transit Authority commuter buses.


David Icenhour is the economic development and human resources director for Alexander County. Previously, Icenhour worked for a local newspaper in the greater Washington, D.C., area.


Lynn Johnson serves as the president of the Roanoke-Chowan Farm & Garden Market, and is an executive board member for the e-NC Authority. In addition, Johnson volunteers for other local civic and community-based organizations in Hertford County.


Tharesa Chadwick Lee works for the City of New Bern as its non-profit coordinator, which includes being a part-time executive director to the Neuse River Community Development Corporation. She is affiliated with numerous community and civic organizations, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee of New Bern Inc. and Habitat for Humanity.


Hasani Jabari Mackey works with the River City Community Development Corporation in Elizabeth City as the assistant youth program manager. He enjoys working with troubled and disadvantaged youth.


Ken McFayden currently works as city manager for West Jefferson. Previously, he worked for the McDowell County Manager's office.


Elaine McKelly is executive director of the Granville Education Foundation. A former teacher and marketing professional, McKelly also worked as director of Sylvan Learning Center and spent several years in the non-profit sector.


Jacquelin F. Melton works for the Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA). A New York native, Melton worked at Marine Midland Bank for 20 years before retiring and moving to North Carolina.


Marolyn Rasheed is the project director for Team Vance in Henderson. Rasheed also volunteers with Gateway Community Development Corporation.


David Smitherman has worked for local government in Elizabethtown since 1995. Smitherman is a Charlotte native.


Ross Steckley is the economic developer for Metropolitan Housing and Community Development Corporation in Washington, N.C. Steckley has worked and lived in eastern North Carolina for the past 12 years where he is an active volunteer in low- to moderate-income communities.


Allison Wilkes Thomas is the owner of Scarborough Fare Catering, which serves the entire eastern portion of the state from Raleigh to the coast. She was recently elected town commissioner of Snow Hill.


Pastor Tracey Troy began her ministry work at the age of seventeen in her hometown of Whiteville. Troy has served on the Communities in Schools board of directors, as a volunteer tutor and aide in the school system.

Christopher Washington works as the community development administrator for Onslow County. He is a Marine Corps veteran.


Pastor James T. "Chip" Webb has served as a United Methodist pastor for 22 years, and is currently pastor of Love's United Methodist Church in Walkertown.


Sara Wester is the chair of TEAM Vance, a project funded by the Duke Endowment Program for the Rural Carolinas. Previously, she worked for the state Employment Security Commission.


Beverly Whitehead is a farmer and a volunteer with the Smoky Mountain Native Plant Association. She also works with the Graham County Health Department and Far West Mountain Economic Partners.


Geoffrey Willett works for the Division of Community Assistance as chief planner in Asheville. Previously, Willett was an adjunct professor at UNC-Asheville in the Environmental Studies Program. He also participated in the Kellogg Fellowship program in International Community Development.


Resea B. Willis is the projects and program director at Countrywide Community Development Corporation, where she initiated an affordable housing program. Previously, Willis worked with several non-profit organizations in both Pender and Brunswick counties.