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Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) is the pilot state affiliate program of Lead for America. It is being run by the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government (SOG), in partnership with the NC City and County Managers Association (NCCCMA), NC League of Municipalities (NCLM), and NC Association of County Commissioners (NCACC).

The goal of LFNC is to implement a fellowship program for recent college graduates that:

  1. Provides added capacity to economically distressed local governments across the state that have difficulty attracting and retaining talented young employees;
  2. Serves as a bridge between local governments (specifically in economically depressed communities or communities with special needs) and the School of Government and professional associations;
  3. Increases the diversity within local governments to better reflect the diversity of the communities they serve;
  4. Creates a pipeline to MPA and other graduate programs in NC;
  5. Fosters the development of young talent in local governments across NC, particularly in areas that have historically (or are projected to have) a difficult time attracting and retaining sufficient talent; and
  6. Promotes a greater sense of civic responsibility and encourages fellows to leave the fellowship with a deeper appreciation and dedication to their personal communities and our civic institutions.

Through the LFNC program, fellows will gain a new perspective and appreciation of local government, understand the most pressing issues facing our communities, establish relationships with partner universities and organizations, and gain opportunities to engage with a growing alumni network of similarly minded individuals.

Once we have a firm commitment from our host local governments, we will actively recruit for a pool of fellows who have strong connections to the regions in which the local governments are located. LFNC has partnered with LFA to engage in a robust fellow recruitment process on college campuses across the state. Fellows engage in a detailed and rigorous screening process to ensure a final pool of high-quality applicants who have a demonstrated commitment to public service, a strong interest in the local government profession, and a record of exemplary personal character. LFNC focuses on recruiting public service–minded individuals from North Carolina’s public and private colleges who desire to return to their home region to serve.

Managers or hiring directors from each host jurisdiction will be invited to interview a select pool of fellows with strong connections to the region in which the local government is located. That interview process will take place on April 23 & 24, 2020, at the SOG. Employment contracts with selected fellows must be finalized by May 15, 2020. Fellow candidates will have the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to each government that offers them an interview or a position.

Fellows will receive training from the SOG, and fellows and host local governments will receive support throughout the fellowship from the SOG, as well as our partner organizations, the NCLM, the NCCCMA, and the NCACC. Specifically, fellows will participate in approximately three weeks of graduate-level training from the SOG. Fellows will build on leadership, communication, and presentation skills, while also gaining new skills and knowledge in areas like economic development, emergency management, capital finance, and budgeting. The training will require fellows to participate in case studies, group presentations, and produce memos for evaluation from School faculty.

We often look for opportunities to engage the fellow’s supervisor and colleagues in our training model. For example, local government employees were invited to Cohort 1’s Summer Academy for a one-day grant writing workshop. In the winter training for Cohort 1, local government employees will be invited with their fellows to an equity and inclusion workshop. LFNC seeks out opportunities to train fellows and opportunities to engage their supervisors and colleagues. Additionally, fellows will participate in monthly zoom calls throughout the fellowship, each focused on a different topic related to working in local government. And fellows will participate in weekend intensive advanced training on a pertinent topic sometime around the 6-month mark of the fellowship. The fellow’s participation in the Summer Academy, the Changemaker Summit, and all subsequent training is required as part of the program. Absences are not permitted.

Each host local government will commit to the following:

  • Enter into a single-year employment contract with each fellow. (The contract will be a 12-month fixed-term employment agreement.)
  • Amend the local government’s personnel policy to create a new class of employee – Temporary Exempt One-year Fellowship. Set the compensation and benefits for that class of employee as per below.
    • Compensation
      • Direct Compensation to Fellow:                       $28,000
      • Employment Taxes (Estimated 7.5%)              $  2,100
      • Approximate Total:     $30,100*
    • Other Benefits
      • Each fellow will be paid for time off for all state/national holidays observed by the local government. Additionally, each fellow will be afforded 3 days of paid time off.
      • Fellows are eligible to earn up to 3 hours of graduate credits towards an MPA or other degree at any UNC System college or university. These credit hours are fully subsidized the LFNC program.
      • Each fellow will receive appropriate training and support to successfully perform job duties.
      • Each fellow will be equipped with a computer and other technology and supplies necessary to successfully perform job duties
      • A fellow is entitled to no other benefits offered by the local government

One of the strengths of the program is that it is designed to meet the needs of the jurisdiction. This means the fellow scope of work can vary across jurisdictions. During the Summer Academy, the manager and fellow co-create the workplan to meet the fellow’s professional development goals, while also meeting the jurisdiction’s needs. Our first cohort of fellows are working on the following projects:

  • Grant writing to increase capacity
  • ADA compliance
  • Broadband access
  • Economic development
  • Citizen engagement initiatives
  • Strategic communication plans
  • Emergency response plans
  • Policy briefs on technical subjects
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Community health initiatives
  • Hurricane recovery & resiliency
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Coordinating interjurisdictional collaboration
  • Immigrant communities
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Utilities projects
  • Event planning

We encourage you to learn more about the placements and work of our 1ST cohort of fellows at

Additionally, you can learn more about the proposed work scope of each host site here. Note, the work scope can change based off the needs of the jurisdiction and the interests of the fellow.

This will vary largely based on the host site and the fellow’s workplan. However, fellows should plan on reporting to work daily from 8 – 5 pm. Some weekend and evening work might be required. Read our fellow blog posts to gain a better understanding of the types of projects our fellows are working on and what a typical day is like.

Each host local government will commit to the following:

  • Enter into a single-year employment contract with each fellow. (The contract will be a 12-month fixed-term employment agreement.)
  • Amend the local government’s personnel policy to create a new class of employee – Temporary Salaried Non-exempt One-year
  • Identify specific projects and/or scope of work for fellow to perform during fellowship period. Include a mix of short- and long-term
  • Assign a direct supervisor to the fellow who will provide regular feedback to the fellow and conduct quarterly performance assessments and
  • Identify one or more mentors to the fellow to help the fellow become an accepted and productive member of the local
  • Conduct weekly check-ins with the
  • Afford fellow meaningful training and professional development
  • Allow fellow to participate in any required LFNC trainings
  • Assist fellow in locating reasonable rental housing (if needed).
  • Keep LFNC Executive Director informed of any issues with fellow or fellowship
  • Comply with any performance evaluation and data collection requirements of the program.

Housing is not provided. Fellows are responsible for finding housing and paying for it. LFNC and host governments can provide help in finding housing, but the burden of responsibility falls to the fellows.

Lead for North Carolina is the first state affiliate of Lead for America. As a state affiliate, we share the common mission of placing young future public sector leaders in local government positions. However, Lead for North Carolina is administered and operated by the SOG. The School is responsible for the local government recruitment, fellow recruitment, fellow training and support, and the administration of the program in North Carolina.

The School has invested significant resources to ensure Lead for North Carolina’s success. The program was designed by a team of 10 faculty and staff members and has a full-time executive director dedicated to maintaining operations. Lead for North Carolina works closely with Lead for America to recruit fellows that would be strong candidates for our local governments, but the main operations of the program are defined and set by the SOG, in consultation with our partner organizations.

LFNC is funded by the local governments, philanthropy, and the UNC School of Government. Funders include: Z Smith Reynolds, Wells Fargo, Golden Leaf, The State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation, the Jesse Ball duPont Fund, and private philanthropists. All local governments are expected to financially contribute. Subsidies are provided to Tier 1 jurisdictions.

The NC Department of Commerce ranks the 100 counties annually on the basis of economic well-being. Each county is given a Tier, either 1, 2, or 3. The 40 most economically distressed counties are given a Tier 1 ranking. The next 40 most economically distressed counties are given a Tier 2 ranking. The 20 least economically distressed counties are given a Tier 3 ranking. These rankings are used to encourage economic activity in the less prosperous areas of the state. LFNC and our funders prioritize placing fellows in Tier 1 communities, however, some Tier 2 and 3 communities will serve as host sites. You can learn more about the economic tiers here.

We are still in our first cohort, so this question does not have a concrete answer yet. However, our current Fellows have talked about a variety of potential post-program plans including: Master of Public Administration programs, Master of Public Policy programs, law school, non-profit work, and even potentially staying in their current host communities.