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Lead for North Carolina Fellows program: Strengthening the local government pipeline

Friday, December 20, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matt Lail
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Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) is currently looking for the next cohort of local government hosts to help train and support the state’s next group of young leaders.

The LFNC program is administered by the UNC School of Government in partnership with the N.C. City & County Management Association (NCCCMA), the N.C. League of Municipalities and the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. LFNC aims to recruit, train, and place the state’s most promising young leaders in two-year paid local government fellowships as a means of strengthening our public institutions, supporting our local communities, and cultivating a new generation of public service leaders. The LFNC program helps NCCCMA accomplish one of its strategic goals which is: Establish an adequate pipeline of managers throughout North Carolina and ensure the profession is highly valued by citizens and elected officials.

The LFNC has a goal for 2020-21 is to place up to 16 recent college graduates in one-year local government fellowships across the state. These fellows, who have a keen interest in local government, will be matched with entities that are facing considerable challenges and have a significant need for young talent and innovative thinking.

If your local government is interested in hosting a Fellow for 2020-21, please email The full cost of training and employing a fellow for a year is approximately $38,325. Local governments in Tier 1-designated counties are eligible to receive significant subsidies to cover these costs. Subsidies vary by size of unit and range from $13,325 to $28,325. That means the cost to your local government could be as low as $10,000.

In its first year, LFNC placed Fellows in 16 communities all across the state. Many of these communities had significant needs. Almost a quarter (24 percent) of citizens in LFNC communities live below the poverty level, and only 22 percent have bachelor’s degrees or higher – compared to 30 percent in North Carolina as a whole. On the flip side, 88 percent of the Fellows in the first year worked on projects that local governments wished to prioritize but did not have the capacity to complete. 

Dylan Russell served as executive director of the LFNC program during its inaugural year. “I often had many conversations with local government managers who were incredulous that a young person would want to move to their jurisdiction,” he told School of Government Dean Michael Smith. However, one local government manager told Smith that “the Fellow reminded him why he moved to the jurisdiction and he felt energized by the Fellow’s enthusiasm and optimism about public service.”  

LFNC is a state affiliate of Lead for America, a nonpartisan fellowship program across the United States. Lead for America was launched in 2018, and LFNC is its first state affiliate program.