PB resident represents Southeast Arkansas at Delta academy in D.C.

Pine Bluff resident Charles McGhee was among 13 Arkansans who discussed infrastructure, health care and transportation with federal lawmakers in Washington, D.C., last month.

McGhee serves on the Delta Regional Authority’s Executive Academy, a federal-state partnership charged with creating jobs, building communities and improving lives in 252 counties and parishes across eight states in the Mississippi River Delta. Members are appointed by Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe.

“As a current member and advocate for the program, I feel it is my duty to bring awareness to the program and shed positive light on the communities I serve,” McGhee said via email on Tuesday. “By doing this, I can work in the community to help grow the economy and enhance the quality of life for Arkansans. This goal should be a priority for each of my counterparts in the Delta Leadership Institute, no matter what state they are from.”

Transportation is a key to infrastructure, which will in turn help create jobs, he said.

“The topics of discussion were intended to remind our governmental officials that, while the Delta is trying to revitalize itself, the need for adequate infrastructure is essential for economic growth,” McGhee said. “The health care topic was focused around the topics of insurance and overall wellness of the communities. The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau shows that the population under 65 years of age in the Delta region without insurance (19.2 percent) was higher than the rest of the nation (17.7 percent). To the DRA, this is problem and this, along with other areas of wellness, were discussed in our sessions.”

The DRA has supported more than 718 projects during the last decade and invested more than $100 million to create thousands of jobs in its eight states, McGhee said.

Chris Masingill, the federal chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, called the meetings productive. The organization does not take a partisan stance, he said.

“Developing strong leaders within our region’s communities helps spur economic growth,” Masingill said in a written statement. “As we strive to create economic opportunity for people in the Delta, we must ensure that our leadership is connected across the region as well as with our congressional and federal leadership.”

The DRA members met with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, U.S. Sen. John Boozman and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton between June 9 and June 12. The lawmakers called the meetings productive.

“It was great to meet with folks from the Delta Leadership Institute,” Cotton said in a written statement provided by the DRA. “I enjoyed hearing about and discussing the work that they are doing in Arkansas.”

“I look forward to working with the Delta Leadership Institute to secure opportunities that will harness the Arkansas Delta’s potential, create jobs and put this region on the path to economic growth,” Pryor said in a written statement provided by the DRA.

“This is such a unique program in the sense that it brings together a diverse group of people who all are committed to making communities in the Mississippi Delta better places to live,” Boozman said in a written statement provided by the DRA.