VLA Presenters

Click on the names below to learn more about past presenters at the Vital Leadership Academy.

  • Susan Potter

    Susan Potter is a consultant and coach for Healthy Church Initiative (HCI), an ongoing process offered by the Smith Center for Evangelism and Church Growth at the Central Texas Conference. She has been involved with HCI since 2012 as a coach, coach trainer and facilitator and was on staff from June 2013 to March 2016. Susan spent 28 years in the corporate world before retirement in 2003 enabled her to pursue her passion – helping others believe in themselves and reach their full potential. She is a credentialed member of the International Coach Federation, and she is a member of the faculty and mentor coach for Coaching4Clergy. Susan is a member of White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, where she facilitates two workshops: Women in Transition and Find Your Strongest Life.


    Carolyn Sims

    Carolyn Sims is a motivational speaker and life coach. A former school counselor, teacher, executive director of a chamber, an arts organization, and an education foundation, Carolyn retired in 2015 from a career in public service that included serving as chief of staff for a state representative and most recently as a precinct administrator for a Tarrant County Commissioner. After a brief retirement, she is now working at Tarrant County College NE Campus as coordinator for Events/Community Relations. Carolyn is active at Harvest United Methodist Church, the recent merger of the former Thompson Chapel and Ridglea United Methodist churches in Fort Worth.


    Eric McKinney

    Dr. Eric McKinney has served the cause of Jesus Christ and the United Methodist Church his entire adult life. An elder, Eric is with the Texas Methodist Foundation (TMF); he is the senior area representative for the Central Texas Conference. He has a passion for helping congregations and individuals respond to God’s purpose, and it’s at the core of everything he does. Churches throughout the CTC are able to draw upon his extensive experience working with clergy, in lay leadership development, and with strategic planning. In addition to pastoring churches large and small, Eric has served as district superintendent, interim Southwestern University chaplain, and clergy group facilitator with the TMF. He has led purpose clarification workshops and strategic planning experiences statewide. Eric earned a BA degree from Southwestern University; a Master of Divinity from Perkins School of Theology; and a Doctor of Ministry from Brite Divinity School.


    Amber Esping

    Dr. Amber Esping is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology at Texas Christian University. She teaches courses in human learning and development, resilience, and philosophical underpinnings of psychotherapy. She has authored or co-authored three books and about two dozen articles and book chapters on these topics. Initially raised as a Catholic in California, Amber’s family began visiting churches of many different denominations during her late childhood and adolescence. In college she discovered the Westlake Village United Methodist Church, and never looked back. Family lore holds that the original Espings were Methodists who emigrated to the U.S. from Sweden in the 1800s. No one has done the necessary research to confirm this story, but Amber definitely feels firmly rooted in the United Methodist church! She and her husband Thomas have been members of Euless First United Methodist Church since moving to Texas in 2008.


    Clifton Howard

    Dr. Clifton Howard serves as district superintendent for the South District of the Central Texas Conference (CTC). On July 1, he will become the Assistant to the Bishop. Dr. Howard has been in ministry in the CTC for more than 30 years, and prior to this appointment he served as the senior pastor of St. Andrew’s UMC in Arlington. During his three decades of service, he has led twelve different and diverse congregations in rural, urban and suburban settings and served as the Brownwood (now West) District superintendent from 2001-03 and as the Waco (now Central) DS from 2003-09. Though he has been in church, district and conference leadership positions since 1982, Dr. Howard first and foremost understands himself as a disciple of Christ – a disciple continually learning and growing in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ. Throughout his years of ministry, he has focused the efforts of those he was leading towards “making disciples of Jesus Christ – ever growing and moving forward in faithfulness to the one who died and rose for the world.” Dr. Howard and his wife, Barbara, have one son, Cory, daughter-in-law, Lili, and four grandchildren—Daisy, Katelyn, Cristian and Matthew. He enjoys basketball, tennis, golf, and watching television and movies.