The Southern Rail Commission is led by a formidable group of governor-appointed commissioners from each member state.
Anita Archie, Deputy Director, ADECA
On June 1, 2017, Anita L. Archie was appointed Executive Counsel/Deputy Director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA). This state agency serves as a clearing house for grant monies throughout the state and it distributes hundreds of millions of dollars throughout Alabama, to cities, counties, nonprofit organizations and others. Deputy Director Archie provides legal and policy counsel to support economic development projects, infrastructure improvements, job training, energy conservation, law enforcement, traffic safety, recreation development, Alabama water resources, and assistance to low income families.
Prior to her tenure with ADECA, Deputy Director Archie served as Chief of Staff to Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, managing human resources, special projects, mayor-council communications, city planning and risk management.
Deputy Director Archie is also active in the River Region community, working as a board member of Health Services Incorporated, Cloverdale Playhouse, and Friends of the Archives.
A 2013 graduate of Leadership Alabama, Deputy Director Archie also has degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama School of Law.
She is married to Eric Archie and they have two kids: Erica and Amari
Corbett Imes “Toby” Bennington, Director of Planning and Economic Development, City of Anniston, AL
Mr. Bennington serves as the Director of Planning and Economic Development for the City of Anniston, AL. He has been with the city since 2007. Prior to holding this position he served as the Director of Community Development in Paulding County, GA , the Director of Regional and Community Planning for the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham for eight years. During this time in addition to local and regional planning engagement, Mr. Bennington held leadership roles in statewide planning initiatives under two Governors in developing coordinated statewide planning strategies for economic development. He served as the Director of Planning for the City of Gadsden, AL where he held the additional duty as Executive Director of the Gadsden Etowah Metropolitan Planning Organization. Mr. Bennington has held planning positions in Cincinnati, OH and in Memphis, TN. While in Memphis, he was appointed by the Mayor of Memphis to serve on the Mayor’s Transportation Task Force for regional transportation policy development. Mr. Bennington currently serves as a Commissioner on the SRC representing Alabama, appointed by the Governor. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners and holds academic degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Memphis State University. Mr. Bennington has resided in the state of Alabama for 38 years. He has three daughters ages; 30, 24 and 18. His hobbies include hiking, writing, geography and being outdoors.
Wiley Blankenship // Secretary/Treasurer // President & CEO, CAP
As President & CEO of Coastal Alabama Partnership (CAP), Wiley Blankenship oversees a private sector-led, not-for-profit organization focused on providing a platform for regional leaders to convene, collaborate, build consensus and advocate for Coastal Alabama’s top priorities. CAP brings together Mobile and Baldwin counties’ economic development groups, Port Authority, Chambers of Commerce, tourism organizations and the top business leaders to speak as “one voice.” CAP addresses issues of regional importance like infrastructure, seafood, tourism, policy and planning, the environment and wind and flood insurance. Blankenship also serves as Executive Director of Coastal PAC, which focuses on advocating for issues important to the coastal counties’ of Alabama.
Blankenship serves on the Board(s) of The Mitchell College of Business and Center for Real Estate and Economic Development – University of South Alabama. Wiley was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to the Southern Rail Commision on August 10, 2017. Wiley also represents the interests of coastal Alabama as an appointed member of the Gulf Coast Working Group, working to restore passenger rail services to America’s Gulf Coast. He previously served on the Board of Business Council of Alabama and the Southern Economic Development Council and will be a member of the XXVIII Leadership Alabama Class.
Blankenship holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration from Auburn University and a graduate of the Organizational Management Institute at the University of Georgia. Blankenship lives in Mobile with his wife Marlo and their two children Allie (16) and Wilson (4).
David Clark, President and CEO, Visit Mobile
David joined Visit Mobile as President & CEO on April 1, 2017. He has 29 years of hospitality, lodging and tourism leadership with 27 of those years working and living in Coastal Alabama. His role with Visit Mobile is to promote the City of Mobile as a Tourism Destination by creating an image of leisure to attract tourist from the Leisure and Convention Markets.
Prior to joining the Visit Mobile Team, David worked for Spectrum Resorts for 4 years, the management company and of The Beach Club and Turquoise Place. Prior to working with Spectrum Resorts, David worked with Marriott International for 25 years; 23 of those years at The Grand Hotel Marriott, Resort Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear, Alabama and served in a variety of roles including Head Golf Professional, Director of Golf, Resident Manager and the last eight years as General Manager.
David’s teams led Marriott International’s Resort Division to the #1 Overall Guest Satisfaction ranking in North America for six consecutive years. They earned National Industry Awards including: Marriott International’s Top Hotel Operations for North America Lodging Operations and Travel + Leisure “Top 500 Hotels in the World.” David was the recipient of Marriott International’s General Manager of The Year for North America and received Hotelier of The Year in 2016 and 2009 by the Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance. He was honored by The Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce as Community Leader of The Year and served on Leadership Alabama. He was recognized in 2016 as Industry Partner of The Year by the University of South Alabama’s Hospitality & Tourism Department.
David currently serves as President of the University of South Alabama’s Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board, is a Board Member of The Exploreum, the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Alliance and The Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors. He is a past Chairman of The Board of The Eastern Shore of Commerce, the Baldwin County Economic Development Alliance and Chairman Elect of the Coastal Alabama Business Chamber. David is a Lifetime Member of the Professional Golfers Association of America.
He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from Western Kentucky University and is married to Melinda and has one daughter, Savannah.
John Clyde Riggs, Executive Director, ATRC
John Clyde Riggs is the Executive Director of the Alabama-Tombigbee Regional Commission (ATRC). He has been Director of ATRC since December, 1997. Prior to that time, Mr. Riggs held the position of Director of Development at ATRC for 15 years and Fiscal Officer for 7 years prior to that.
The ATRC is a ten county regional planning and development commission, providing services in Economic Development, Community planning and technical assistance, Aging programs, Medicaid Waiver services and Rural Transportation.
Mr. Riggs is a native of Wilcox County. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Auburn University in 1972. He serves as a member of the National Association of Development Organizations, the Coosa Alabama River Improvement Association, is a member of Economic Development Association of Alabama, served on the Technical Advisory Council for the Governor’s Black Belt Action Commission, served as President of the Alabama Association of Regional Councils, National President of the Delta Regional Authority Development District, Deputy Co-Chair for Alabama Rural Action Commission, and Co-Chair of Region Six Workforce Development Council.
Since returning home from college, Riggs has been active in civic affairs as well as local politics. He has been a member of the Exchange Club, the Wilcox Chamber of Commerce, Wilcox Voters League, Chairman of the Will Bledsoe Fund, Deacon of the Camden Baptist Church, having served two terms as Chairman. Riggs has served one term on the Camden City Council and two terms as County Commissioner, running unopposed the second term.
Steve Carter, Representative, State of Louisiana
Steve is a Baton Rouge native and was re-elected without opposition to a second term as State Representative for District 68 in Baton Rouge. He is an alumni of University High in Baton Rouge and was President of his graduating class at LSU. Steve is an alumni of Sigma Chi and a member of First Presbyterian Church. He served as a Captain in the United States Air Force and was Head Tennis Coach at LSU, being awarded SEC Coach of the Year two times. He has been married to Gloria Solomon Carter of New Orleans since 1977; they have two children and three grandchildren. He is Chairman of the House of Representatives Education Committee and is also currently serving his second term as chairman of the Capital Region Legislative Delegation.
Tommy Clark, Commissioner of Multimodal Commerce, DOTD
Tommy was recently appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards as the first Commissioner of Multimodal Commerce, a newly formed office within the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to enhance the state’s focus on multimodal transportation.
Tommy commenced a 25 year career in 1978 with Kansas City Southern Railway Company, a class-1 rail transportation company, providing transportation solutions throughout North America. He led and directed various management positions, including industrial development, total quality management, electronic data interchange, interline service management, highway/rail grade crossing safety, government affairs and community relations.
He voluntarily left KCS in 2000, forming his own consultancy firm, Clark & Associates, LLC, specializing in government affairs, community / stakeholder engagement, multimodal transportation, and economic development. During this time, Tommy represented several governmental organizations, NGO’s, small, medium and large companies, was involved in several political campaigns, ran for political office, and was appointed by two Louisiana Governors to four gubernatorial boards and commissions, among them, the LIIEP Commission and Chairman of the I-49 North Funding and Feasibility Task Force. In addition, Tommy was a member of or served as chairman to numerous civic and community boards, as well as executive committees of various industry trade associations.
Tommy was recruited to join Petrohawk Energy in 2011, responsible for managing community and government relations in the Haynesville Shale. He was subsequently appointed and relocated July 1, 2013, as Head of Corporate Affairs, Shale for BHP Billiton’s Petroleum headquarters office in Houston, Texas, responsible for strategy and policy development, issues management, government affairs, community relations and stakeholder engagement.
bio coming soon
Walter "Walt" Leger, III, Representative, State of Louisiana
Walt was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in November 2007. Leger is an attorney at the law firm of Leger & Shaw in New Orleans where he practices in Admiralty & Maritime law and commercial, insurance, and complex civil litigation. A former felony prosecutor in the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office, Leger has served on the powerful Appropriations Committee, the Criminal Justice Committee, the Education Committee, the Judiciary Committee, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget, the House Executive Committee, the Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission, the House Committee on Homeland Security, and the Technology Sub-Committee of the House Executive Committee. Leger has recently been named to a special Revenue Task Force to study and review Tax Expenditures, including Tax Credits, Exemptions, and Rebates.
John Spain, // Chairman // Executive Vice President, BRAF
John Spain is the Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation (BRAF), where he oversees projects that aim to solve fundamental problems across South Louisiana. John’s work has included healthcare and education reform, economic development and renewal of inner-city neighborhoods. Recently, he spearheaded a project that created the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, which won $60 million in federal tax credits for inner city rebuilding in its first try. John’s latest projects include implanting passenger rail linking Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and master plans for the Medical District in Baton Rouge and for the lakes next to LSU.
D. Jerome Wall III
Jerome Wall served in the United States Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve from 1966 to 1972 and was Honorably discharged. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Southeastern Louisiana University at Hammond and a Master’s degree from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.
Jerome served on the Southern High-Speed Rail Commission, the predecessor of the Southern Rail Commission from 2005 to 2010 and was the Chairman in 2010.
Dr. Shawn Wilson // Governor's Designee // Secretary, DOTD
For the past 10 years, Dr. Shawn Wilson has served as Chief of Staff for the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), a role he filled under three Secretaries and two Governors. Wilson previously served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Serve Commission and Deputy Legislative Director for Governor Kathleen Blanco.
A New Orleans native, Wilson earned a B.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Louisiana. He holds a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from Southern University.
Shawn’s community service covers a variety of personal and professional interests, including Scoutmaster for Troop 271 Boy Scouts of America in Lafayette, Evangeline Area Council of Boy Scouts Board, and American Associations of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
Bio coming soon
Ashley Edwards, Executive Director, Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission
Edwards was named Executive Director of the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission in 2013. He leads a team tasked with operating The Port Bienville Shortline Railroad, Port Bienville Industrial Complex, Stennis International Airport, and the Economic Development Authority for Hancock County. Ashley led the effort that recently resulted in the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission receiving the Mississippi Economic Development Council’s 2014 award for excellence in business recruitment for landing SpaceX’s Raptor Engine development program in Hancock County. In February 2015, Ashley was named as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Rising Stars in Economic Development by Development Counsellors International.
Previously, Ashley served as Executive Director of Governor Phil Bryant’s Office of Recovery, where he was responsible for overseeing the closeout of Mississippi’s Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. Ashley also served as Deputy Director of Governor Haley Barbour’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, where he was a member of the team responsible for coordinating the State of Mississippi’s long-term recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Ashley is a native of Petal, Miss. and an alumnus of The University of Southern Mississippi, where he received his Master’s Degree in Economic Development and Tulane University, where he received his bachelor’s degree and was a recipient of the prestigious Tulane 34 Award, which recognizes students for their exemplary leadership, service, and academic excellence. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Economic Development Council, the Trent Lott Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship, the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce, The United Way of South Mississippi, Partners for Stennis Space Center, and the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology.
Kay has been active with the Southern Rail Commission since 1992 and has held the position of Chairman several times. She was Pascagoula's city manager from 2001 until December 2010. As the longest serving city manager, she led countless rebuilding and grant-funded projects after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. During her career, Kell was also the City Manager of the City of Picayune, Director of Administration and City Clerk of Bay St. Louis, as well as a firm manager and senior accountant of Charles Benvenutti, CPA. She began her career after achieving a BS in Computer Science and Accounting from the University of Southern Mississippi. Kay is in the Leadership Hall of Fame of South Mississippi's Top Community Leaders and was honored by Mississippi Main Street as Public Official of the Year. She was appointed in 2011 to the Mississippi Commission for the Department of Environmental Quality.
Melinda McGrath, Executive Director, MDOT
Melinda McGrath currently serves as the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT). For a year prior to her initial appointment, McGrath held the dual role of MDOT interim executive director and chief engineer.
McGrath’s professional credentials include: serving as a member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Standing Committee and AASHTO Highway Traffic Safety Subcommittee on Highways; serving on the Construction Material Industries Advisory Board for MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering; and, serving as a member of the Mississippi Road Builders’ Association, Southeastern Pavement Preservation Partnership, Mississippi Asphalt Pavement Association and Mississippi Engineering Society.
McGrath began her career with MDOT in 1985 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Mississippi State University. She was recently recognized as a Distinguished Fellow by MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering.
Jack Norris, Senior Program Manager, Covington Civil and Environmental, LLC
Jack Norris is a Senior Program Manager with Covington Civil and Environmental, LLC and serves as the team lead for the firms RESTORE Act project management activities. Jack has more than 15 years of experience in managing federal and state public policy and funding initiatives.
Previously, Jack served as President of the Gulf Coast Business Council – a regional non-profit corporation which represents top business executives on issues and projects important to the economy of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Jack also served in the office of Governor Haley Barbour as Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Renewal, coordinating Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts for the Governor’s Office.
Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Jack served on the staff of former Senator Trent Lott in Washington DC for eight years as Projects Director and Policy Advisor.
Jack serves on the Mississippi State Port Authority Board of Commissioners and the Southern Rail Commission.
In January 2013, Jack was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant to serve on the Mississippi State Port Authority Board of Commissioners. In December 2014, he began serving a one year term as president of the Commission.
Alice Perry, Assistant Director, MDEQ
Alice Perry is the Assistant Director for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) where she serves as policy advisor to the agency’s executive director and as the agency’s liaison with local, state, and federal officials.
Ms. Perry's other experience in state government includes service as Deputy Chief of Staff to Governor Haley Barbour, Chief of Staff to First Lady Marsha Barbour, and as Director of Public Information at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Ms. Perry was the first Solid Waste Division Manager for the City of Jackson, Mississippi. She later worked for BFI Waste Systems of North America, Inc., and managed public sector business development and contracts with cities and counties throughout Mississippi.
Her non-profit experience includes serving as Director of Development for The Nature Conservancy Mississippi Chapter and as Executive Director for Keep Jackson Beautiful.
She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Mississippi Natural Science Museum Foundation and is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi Executive Committee. She is a former board member and officer of the Mississippi Chapter Solid Waste Association of North America, Stewpot Ministries, and Hinds County Forestry Association. She is a recipient of the Mississippi Children’s Home Society’s Friend of Mississippi Children’s Award.
Knox Ross // Vice-Chairman // Mayor, Town of Pelahatchie, Principal, Ross & Betts
Knox W. Ross, Jr., CPA serves a dual career as a practicing Certified Public Accountant and as the Mayor of the Town of Pelahatchie, Mississippi. As a CPA, Knox is a principal in Ross & Betts, PLLC which specializes in individual, small business, and farm accounting and taxation. As Mayor, Knox is the chief executive of a town of 1,461 located in the Jackson metropolitan area. Knox recently completed a term as the President of the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District, and has served as President of the Mississippi Municipal League. He also serves on the Executive Board of the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership, on the Advisory Board of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, and as Chairman of the Jackson Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Knox has also served as a presenter on small town and economic development topics at numerous seminars and conventions, and has provided several articles on small town development to various periodicals. He also is a recipient of the Public Service Award from the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Knox's accounting career spans over 20 years, beginning with Ernst & Young, an international accounting firm. For the last 14 years, Knox has operated his own firm located in downtown Pelahatchie. Knox's Mayoral career began in 2001 with election to the office of Mayor. While Mayor, the Town has enjoyed unprecented growth and recognition. The Town has been the recipient of five Mississippi Municipal League Excellence Awards, two North American Development Organization Awards, a Governor's Award of Excellence for the best Rural Impact Project, a Mississippi Economic Development Council Award, a regional Governor’s Cup Award, a Southeastern Economic Development Award, and a is member of the Keep Mississippi Beautiful Hall of Fame.
Patrick Sullivan, President, Mississippi Energy Institute
Sullivan is President of the Mississippi Energy Institute, a private, non-profit business created to support research and energy policy to foster economic growth in Mississippi. Prior to his work at the Mississippi Energy Institute, Patrick served both as Policy Advisor and as Executive Director of Recovery and Renewal for Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Serving as Policy Advisor to the Governor since 2006, he had oversight of issues pertaining to energy, transportation, environment, agriculture, natural resources, and economic development. In July 2010, he was named Executive Director of the Governor's Office of Recovery and Renewal, which is the primary entity responsible for coordinating disaster assistance, overseeing state-level response and assistance for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the April 2011 tornado disasters, and the 2011 Mississippi River flood. Patrick is a graduate of Mississippi State University with a Master of Agribusiness Management and resides in Madison, MS, with wife, Elizabeth, and two sons, Garrett and Jake.