rural renaissance roadshow



Roadshow session topics will be timely and relevant to rural leaders and will have robust funding available in the IRA.

Clean Energy

How to implement and fund/finance clean energy programs that reduce energy burdens, improve quality of life, and create equitable economic opportunity.


Understanding and planning for local resilience. Implementing energy resilience to improve reliability.

Black Family Farms

Protecting heirs’ property rights.

Regenerative Agriculture

Restoring the land through regenerative farming.

Main Street Small Business Development

Developing local small businesses to support clean energy economies and long-term quality of life.

Investing in Emerging Market America

Getting to know and working with impact investors committed to rural communities.


Dr. Greg Barron-Gafford (he/him/yall)
University of Arizona Professor;
Director of Food, Energy, and Water Resilience Solutions
Session: Food, Energy, and Water Resilience Solutions: Agrivoltaics as a Tool for Rural Communities

Greg Barron-Gafford is an Earth System Scientist who has been building the field of 'agrivoltaics' - the concept of co-locating agriculture and photovoltaics (renewable energy from solar panels). Greg began this work in southern Arizona to study the benefits across the food-energy-water nexus, and over the years have developed a national and international program connecting with researchers and rural community leaders across Kenya, Tanzania, Mexico, and Israel. Working to develop science-based solutions to help people adapt to the increasing pressures that come from a changing climate is a personal and professional goal.

Luis Bernal
Deputy General Counsel,
Appalachian Regional Commission
Session: Rural Economic Development: Federal Investments in Clean Energy and Efficiency Projects

Luis Bernal is the Deputy General Counsel at the Appalachian Regional Commission. In this capacity, he provides legal advice to senior leadership and operational units of the Commission on a wide range of legal matters pertaining to grants management and cooperative agreements for economic development, broadband deployment, and access to capital. Prior to joining the Commission, Luis worked at the USDA- Rural Utilities Services, where he advised leadership in the Electric Program on the design and implementation of energy efficiency programs and renewable energy projects, in particular the Rural Energy Saving Program. He also led the Puerto Rico Energy Affairs Administration (2009-2012). In that role, he established and implemented policy for renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation projects and investments, liaised with the US Department of Energy, and oversaw the implementation of federally funded programs and daily operations of the organization. Luis holds a Master of Laws in Energy and Environmental Law from the George Washington University Law School and a Juris Doctor from Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Law.

Laurel Blatchford
Chief Implementation Officer

Laurel Blatchford was appointed as Treasury’s Chief Implementation Officer for the Inflation Reduction Act in January 2023. In this newly created role, Laurel is leading a team focused on the implementation of Treasury’s provisions of the IRA across Treasury and the IRS.

Over the course of her 25-year career, Laurel has held senior leadership roles in the non-profit, government and philanthropic sectors. Most recently, as Managing Director and Senior Advisor at Blue Meridian Partners, she collaborated on $100M of investments focused on economic mobility and advised Blue Meridian’s portfolio of grantees on their approach to policy as a tool for impact and influence. Prior to joining Blue Meridian in 2020, she was President of Enterprise Community Partners, one of the nation's largest affordable housing and community development intermediaries. During her six-year tenure at Enterprise, Laurel led a team of 250 staff working in 12 markets across the United States that built capacity on the ground, piloted new advisory solutions for local leaders, and connected partners to capital, including public sector grant funding as well as private capital.

Laurel also has extensive federal and local government experience; she served as a senior political appointee in the Obama Administration, including as Executive Director of the Hurricane Sandy Task Force and Chief of Staff at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development between 2009 and 2013. Prior to that, she served as a senior leader at City Hall and in New York City’s housing agency during the Bloomberg Administration. She also served on both the Obama-Biden and Biden-Harris presidential transition team and was nominated for a Senate-confirmed role in the Biden-Harris Administration. She is a graduate of Williams College and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and lives with her family in Washington DC.

Robert Burns
Home Region Program Director
Walton Family Foundation

Robert is director of the Home Region Program at the Walton Family Foundation. In this role, he leads the foundation’s work advancing economic and cultural vibrancy, opportunity and inclusion in Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.

Robert has more than 25 years of experience in workforce housing, philanthropy, community development and governmental affairs. Most recently, he led efforts to promote financial inclusion and economic empowerment as senior vice president of Citi. In previous roles, Robert partnered with nonprofit and public agencies to build more inclusive cities; managed a Community Development Financial Institution; directed nonprofit solutions for an affordable housing organization; and served in local government in four states.

Robert has a master’s in public administration from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s in political science from Appalachian State University.

Liz Carlisle, she/her
Associate Professor, Environmental Studies Program,
University of California Santa Barbara
Session: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming

Liz Carlisle is an Associate Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at UC Santa Barbara, where she teaches courses on food and farming. Born and raised in Montana, she got hooked on agriculture while working as an aide to organic farmer and U.S. Senator Jon Tester, which led to a decade of research and writing collaborations with farmers in her home state.

She has written three books about regenerative farming and agroecology: Lentil Underground (2015), Grain by Grain (2019, with co-author Bob Quinn), and most recently, Healing Grounds: Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming (2022).

She holds a Ph.D. in Geography, from UC Berkeley, and a B.A. in Folklore and Mythology, from Harvard University. Prior to her career as a writer and academic, she spent several years touring rural America as a country singer.

Keith Dennis
Beneficial Electrification League
Session: Opportunities Abound for Beneficial Electrification

Keith Dennis is the President of the Beneficial Electrification League, a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to increase understanding of the benefits of electrification by promoting the market acceptance of beneficial electrification. He is also the CEO of Electrification Strategies, LLC. Keith has an interdisciplinary background in engineering, business, and law. He worked for nearly a decade at the trade association for 900 not-for-profit electric cooperatives (NRECA), where he was Vice President of consumer member engagement. In 2015, he coined the term “environmentally beneficial electrification,” which led to an industry movement around beneficial electrification.

Keith joined NRECA directly from the Department of Energy where he led a Policy and Guidance Team for a $3.2 billion energy efficiency and conservation grant (EECBG) program. He also served at The White House where he supported several large energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

Keith holds three degrees from Dartmouth College and a Master of Studies in Environmental Law (M.S.E.L) from Vermont Law School. He is also licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.) and holds multiple certifications in the energy field.

Josh Ewing, he/him
Rural Climate Partnership
Session: Left Out or Opting In? Ensuring Massive Opportunities Land in Rural Communities

Josh Ewing leads the Rural Climate Partnership, a collaborative fund supporting working people, small businesses, and family farmers to implement rural-led climate solutions. RCP works to ensure rural communities have the tools and opportunities to benefit from all the economic and community benefits that flow from the transition to clean energy and regenerative agriculture.

Born and raised in western Nebraska where the Ewing family runs a cattle ranch, Josh has lived and worked in rural America most of his life. With his wife Kirsten, Josh lives on the border of the Navajo Nation in the 150-person town of Bluff, Utah, where he serves as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.

Kyler Geoffroy
Online Marketing Manager,
Urban Resilience Project
Session: A Crash Course in Drafting Short-Form with the Urban Resilience Project

Kyler Geoffroy is the Online Marketing Manager for the Urban Resilience Project (URP), a grant-funded program of the non-profit publisher Island Press that works to champion sustainable, equitable communities in the era of climate change. As part of URP, he works with thought leaders, activists, and other change agents in the publication of original short-form writing (articles, op-eds, etc) into external media outlets. He also spearheads a variety of digital media initiatives across social media, podcasts, and other online mediums. Prior to his work at Island Press, Kyler was Managing Editor of Towleroad, the largest LGBT news blog in the United States, and also worked at the progressive advocacy group People for the American Way (PFAW). He is a native Texan and currently resides in Anaheim, CA with his partner Eric and ferocious cat Tommen.

Rachel Halfaker, she/her
Associate Director
Milken Institute
Workshop: Introducing the Community Infrastructure Center

Rachel Halfaker is an Associate Director at the Center for Financial Markets at the Milken Institute. Rachel leads the Community Infrastructure Center, developing strategic partnerships between communities, capital providers, and advisory firms for equitable, climate-resilient infrastructure deployment. Prior to her work at the Milken Institute, Halfaker worked at the intersection of urban technology and economic development. She worked as an Urban Development Consultant in Deloitte’s Smart Cities practice supporting clients with regional and national place-based economic development and later as the head of Launch in Washington DC for a Mobility startup utilizing machine learning and computer vision for curbside management.

Halfaker holds a Masters in Urban Planning from Georgetown University and a BS in Information Systems from the University of Florida.

Glen Hooks
Policy Manager
Audubon Delta
Session: Solar for All: Community, Solar, Power

Glen Hooks is Policy Manager for Audubon Delta, a regional arm of the National Audubon Society encompassing Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where he focuses largely on climate and clean energy issues. Prior to joining Audubon in late 2021, Glen served as Director of the Arkansas Sierra Club, as Executive Director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, and as an attorney in public and private practice. He is a graduate of Hendrix College and the UALR Bowen School of Law.

Adaora Ifebigh
Senior Director of Impact
Sol Systems, LLC
Panel Moderator: "The Power of Partnerships”: Leveraging Scale for Successful Community-Centered Clean Energy Development

Adaora Ifebigh is the Senior Director of Impact at Sol System and leads efforts to execute Sol’s comprehensive Impact and Infrastructure strategy. In this role, she builds community partnerships and collaborates with local organizations who are driving positive change in their communities in their efforts to address systemic challenges to sustainability. Ms. Ifebigh has over 15 years of program management and leadership experience across the energy sector with specific experience in energy access and community impact work in rural cooperative territory. As Program Director for Energy Access at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), she started and led the Advancing Energy Access for All initiative that spotlights cooperatives' involvement in facilitating healthy communities, explores the innovative ways they do it, and uncovers new directions community assistance programs are taking. The initiative created a sustainable practice around supporting cooperatives as they holistically serve their members, especially low- and moderate-income households and to ensure that rural communities are not left behind in the transition to clean energy.

Bill Inman
Vice President of Member & Strategic Services,
Aiken Electric Cooperative
Panelist: "The Power of Partnerships”: Leveraging Scale for Successful Community-Centered Clean Energy Development

Bill Inman is the Vice President of Member & Strategic Services at Aiken Electric Cooperative. With over three decades of experience in the industry, he has been instrumental in providing reliable energy solutions to the community. Bill holds a B.S. in Administrative Management from Clemson University and an MBA from Nova Southeastern University. Before joining Aiken Electric, he worked in banking. Bill is actively involved in community organizations such as the Rotary Club, Salvation Army Board of Directors, and Savannah River Site Redevelopment Authority. He has also served as the Aiken Chamber of Commerce Chair and United Way of Aiken County Chair. Bill enjoys traveling with his family and staying active in his free time.

Tiffani Lawson
Resiliency Program Manager

Tiffani Lawson contributes a strong background in youth and community development, community engagement, and community outreach to Groundswell’s Energy Programs team in her role as the Resiliency Program Manager. With more than 12 years of experience in the nonprofit youth development sector, Tiffani is dedicated to creating safe and equitable spaces for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth and communities by advocating for access to safe spaces, opportunities for growth and development, and the resources necessary for success.

Prior to joining Groundswell, Tiffani held leadership positions in various organizations, including The City of Houston, YMCA of Greater Houston, Grand St. Settlement, Inc., and The Children's Aid Society, working in community engagement and outreach, program management, program development, and youth development across Houston and New York City, including Washington Heights, the Bronx, and Brooklyn.

Tiffani earned her Bachelor's degree in Communications from Tennessee State University and her Master's degree in Youth Development from The City University of New York (CUNY). Outside of work, Tiffani is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She loves animals and international travel.

Autumn Long, she/her
Appalachian Solar Finance Fund
Panelist: "The Power of Partnerships”: Leveraging Scale for Successful Community-Centered Clean Energy Development

Autumn Long directs the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund, a regional financial and technical assistance program designed to catalyze solar development in coal-impacted Central Appalachian communities. She previously served as a Regional Director at Solar United Neighbors, a national nonprofit dedicated to grassroots solar advocacy and education. Ms. Long holds a NABCEP PV Associate certification and teaches a course on solar PV technology and policy fundamentals at West Virginia University. She co-chairs the Central Appalachian Network’s Clean Energy Working Group and chairs the advisory board of New Roots Community Farm in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Ms. Long lives in the New River Gorge region of West Virginia, where she enjoys climbing, trail running, paddling, swimming, hiking, and playing music.

Laurie Mazur
Urban Resilience Project
Session: A Crash Course in Drafting Short-Form with the Urban Resilience Project

Laurie Mazur is the Editor for the Urban Resilience Project (URP), a grant-funded program of the non-profit publisher Island Press that works to champion sustainable, equitable communities in the era of climate change. In that role, Laurie works with activists and others to co-create articles, blog posts and op-eds—and to place that content in appropriate news outlets. (A compilation of that published work is available here.)

Laurie is the author/editor of three books; her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and many other publications. A mother of two adult sons, Laurie lives just outside Washington, DC.

Will McIntee
Senior Advisor for Public Engagement
White House
Session: Unpacking the Biggest Investment in Rural Power in a Century

Will McIntee serves as Senior Advisor for Public Engagement at The White House handling rural, agriculture, food, and nutrition engagement. He served as the National Rural Engagement Director on the Biden-Harris campaign.

He previously served at the U.S. Department of the Interior during the Obama-Biden Administration, in the Office of Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) in Iowa, and as the Midwest Outreach Director for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. A native of northeast Iowa, Will is an alum of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa.

Michelle Moore
Session: Revitalizing America's Hometowns Through Clean Power

Michelle Moore is author of “Rural Renaissance” and CEO of Groundswell, a 501(c)(3) that builds community power by eliminating energy burdens and increasing economic opportunity with community solar, resilience centers, residential energy efficiency, and pioneering research. A social entrepreneur and former White House official with roots in rural Georgia, Michelle is a relentless agent for change. Her accomplishments range from cutting the government’s energy bill by $11 billion and deploying 3.2 Gigawatts of new renewable energy for President Obama, to developing LEED into a globally recognized brand for USGBC.

Michelle also serves as a Senate-confirmed member of the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors and as Secretary of the Board for the Interdenominational Theological Center. Her work is rooted in her faith and the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Dianne Dillon-Ridgely
Session: Black Family-Owned Farms

In her own words, “COURAGE is the catalyst for change,” and Dianne Dillon-Ridgely is the very definition of a changemaker. Shattering glass ceilings and claiming her place at the table to be a voice for equity and sustainability throughout her life Dianne leads with courage and passion. In the last forty years Dianne has been a dedicated Environmentalist and Human Rights Activist at the forefront of society's shift from an industrial one to one focused on sustainability. Appointed by three US Presidents across three Administrations, she has served on twenty-three US Delegations at the UN and other global meetings. By appointment of the White House she attended the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the 1997 General Assembly Special Session and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa, making her the only person to serve on all three US delegations.

Dan Slone he/him
Lawyer & Vision Wallah,
Vertical Vision
Session: The Role of Local Wildlife and Dark Skies in Making Places We Love

Dan is an attorney, author of fiction and non-fiction works, and an international speaker and TEDx alum. He has been honored over the years to represent some of the leading green and pedestrian scale building organizations, including the US Green Building Council, the World Green Building Council, EcoDistricts, Congress for the New Urbanism, Groundswell, and Building Transparency. He has written chapters in nine books, co-authored A Legal Guide to Urban and Sustainable Development, and is on sabbatical finishing Saving the Dark Night and Her Children, due out in 2024.

Dan has also authored a series of fantasy novels centered on human relationships with the world around them. Most of Dan’s practice and writing these days focuses on the design of human habitat and that design’s impact on interactions among humans and with other living creatures.

Nicole Sonderegger
Director of Energy Programs
Nicole Sonderegger is the Director of Energy Programs at Groundswell. Nicole oversees implementation of Groundswell's energy efficiency, solar and resilience programs with a focus on Georgia and Maryland. She has been working on Groundswell's residential energy efficiency programming for almost 3 years, supporting day-to-day implementation and overall program strategy. 
Nicole has over 5 years of experience serving low-income communities. Prior to working at Groundswell, Nicole led partnerships and impact monitoring at a workforce development nonprofit. Nicole holds a master's in Social Business from the London School of Economics and dual bachelor's degrees in Business and Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Nicole is a native of San Jose, Costa Rica. 
Lauren Waldrip
Executive Director
Arkansas Advanced Energy Association and Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation

Lauren Waldrip currently serves as the Executive Director for the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association and Arkansas Advanced Energy Foundation. Through this role, Lauren oversees communications, media relations, trade association management, event planning, government relations, grassroots engagement and activities for state and federal PACs. She regularly engages in advocacy efforts regarding regulatory issues through the Public Service Commission and policy issues through the legislature.

Lauren previously acted as partner at Campbell Ward, a Little Rock based public affairs and public relations firm. While at Campbell Ward, Lauren served as the Executive Director of the Arkansas Rice Federation and testified on behalf of farmers before the Public Service Commission regarding net metering.

She has worked as Project Coordinator for the Razorback Foundation, where she created and implemented a program that increased membership by 20%. Lauren assisted with the re-branding of the Razorback Foundation and aided in planning events for current and prospective donors. She has provided public relations assistance for U.S. Senator John Boozman and for the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation.

Lauren serves on the Arkansas Foodbank board and recently served on the Little Rock Water Reclamation Commission. She has been named to Arkansas Business’ 20 in their 20’s and Arkansas Money and Politics’ Future 50 lists and is a Leadership Arkansas graduate.

Rashad Williams
Director of Subscriber Services
Session: Solar for All: Community, Solar, Power

As Director of Subscriber Services, Rashad Williams is at the helm of Groundswell’s effort to provide low-to-moderate-income households with access to clean energy resources, information, programs, and products that empower them to mitigate both the physical and financial barriers to going solar.  As an advocate for social and environmental justice, Rashad is committed to advancing equitable clean energy solutions that center the people closest to the problem.

Rashad provides strategic direction, project governance, and general program oversight to Groundswell’s subscriber services delivery. He uses a people-centric approach to coordinate various elements of the program including customer support, marketing & communications, software development, and data analytics. With over 5,000 income-qualified subscribers under management, this work directly drives Groundswell’s ability to build community power and share solar savings where they are most needed.

A native of Atlanta’s south side, Rashad attended Georgia State University, where he earned a master’s degree in public policy and a bachelor’s in sociology. When he’s not working to identify solutions that benefit marginalized communities, you can find him reading a good book, discovering new ways to stay active, or traversing the D.C. food scene.

Curtis Wynn
SECO Energy

Wynn became SECO Energy’s CEO in December 2021. They are the 7th largest distribution cooperative in the nation. Wynn also served for 24 years as President and CEO of Roanoke Electric Cooperative in North Carolina before making the move to SECO Energy. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration and Management Information Systems from Troy University.

With a cooperative career that spans over 40 years, Wynn’s resume reflects a long list of awards and accomplishments with creative solutions that are turning the challenges of the energy industry evolution into major opportunities. Wynn was recently awarded the Clyde T. Ellis award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. The award honors those who have made exemplary contributions that promote the principles and progress of rural electrification and the development and use of natural resources. NRECA’s board of directors named the newly formed NRECA Diversity Champion award in his name.

Program Schedule

October 25


Crystal Bridges, Bentonville’s celebrated art museum

  • 5:00pm Opening Reception with local music, book signing stations
  • 6:00pm Welcoming Plenary
  • 6:30pm Seated Dinner
  • 8:30pm Return to Hotels

October 26


Downtown Bentonville at the The Ledger

6th Floor and Terrace

  • 8:00am Breakfast
  • 8:30am Plenary
  • 9:30am Break
  • 9:45am Morning Breakout Sessions
  • 12:30pm Lunchtime Plenary
  • 2:00pm Afternoon Breakouts Sessions
  • 5:00pm First Day Wrap-Up(Evening Reception: Cocktails and Appetizers)
  • 6:00pm “Taste of Bentonville” group dinners out on the town

October 27


Downtown Bentonville at the The Ledger

6th Floor and Terrace

  • 8:00am Gospel Breakfast
  • 8:30am Morning Working Sessions
  • Noon Closing Plenary
  • 1:00pm Program Concludes