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Fellows’ Blog

Serving My Community

by Noor Sandhu
05/05/22

Serving the Town of Apex has provided me invaluable experiences – the impacts of our program can be seen in the field, and I have had the privilege of seeing them firsthand. As a Housing and Community Programs Specialist, I work closely with the rest of the Town’s first affordable …

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Water, Water Everywhere

by Elizabeth Miller
04/07/22

  Over the past few months, I have been administering a grant for urgent housing repairs to low-income households in Hyde County. I took over the project in late August from the previous grant administrator, who left the county before I began my fellowship. When she left, virtually all internal …

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Making Change in Changing Times – A Word to Fellows New and Old

by Stephen Wright
04/05/22

  Recently I took a look back at my time as a Fellow up to now, first realizing that it’s already been 8 months since I started with Ashe County, and second, realizing how much the world has continued to change as this fellowship has progressed. COVID, seemingly, is on …

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Problems Make for a Life Worth Living

by Keegan Huynh
03/30/22

  This past year in Tier 1 County has often felt like an exercise in discomfort. Moving to a new community, adjusting to a new culture, and taking on large projects have been some of the many (but by no means only) sources of anxiety that I have faced during …

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Realizations of a Fellow

by Paige Shepard
03/29/22

  Realization #1: I am more involved in my current community than I ever was in my hometown. In Burlington I attend every concert in the park, holiday event in downtown, and know every park and community center in the city limits and you will be shocked to learn how …

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Neighborhood Spring Yard Contest

by Philomena Golden
03/28/22

Below is a copy of the application to enter the Stateville Neighborhood Yard Contest!  Working with the South side Initiative task force, I created the logo and application for the very exciting new contest. The task force is a program that was created to focus on the revitalization of neighborhoods …

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Top 10 List for Incoming Fellows

by Erin Anderson
03/04/22

    On my application to Wake Forest (go deacs!) five and a half years ago, I was prompted to write a “top ten list.” In 2016, my list was the top ten monuments/buildings I’ve been to the top of. In 2022, my new list is the top ten pieces …

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My first big project

by Mikaela Benton
03/04/22

Coming into this fellowship I was very excited at the notion of spearheading a project, any project, something that would have lasting meaning and fill a need in the community. I’m not sure why, but the fact that it had to be something tangible was a goal of mine and …

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An Open Love Letter to Cohort Three

by Zane Carroll
03/04/22

  Yesterday was my twenty-fourth birthday. Early in the day, one of the other fellows in my cohort reached out to me to say, “happy birthday ily i am so grateful to have you in my life!! Your friendship makes this fellowship worth it.” Living and working in rural areas …

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Race and Space: A Reflection from Class Readings

by Mikaela Benton
02/10/22

Throughout my time in Elizabeth City, something has become quite clear to me; downtown is an area that Black people do not frequent. For a city that is 50% Black, I hardly ever see Black people in the downtown area. This subject of conversation came up during my Listening Tour …

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Forging a Path In Unknown Territories

by Jose Matute
12/20/21

As a first generation college graduate, much of my professional and personal path has consisted of forging a path forward in uncharted territory. I have also found that this is also true post-college. Oftentimes, this reality is anxiety inducing. I find myself pausing in real time wondering if I am …

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The Learning Curve

by Lauren Koesy
11/30/21

The Learning Curve I did not know what to expect when I started my fellowship at the Wake County Manager’s office. Was I intimidated to represent the program at the largest county in North Carolina? Yes, yes I was. Was I, like how many of my cohort and friends have …

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Fig Season

by Elizabeth Miller
11/18/21

On my first day of work in Hyde County, I learned of the annual fig festival held on Ocracoke, an island in the Outer Banks within the jurisdiction. Later that week, the county manager brought figs to share in the office and fixed a dish of warm figs, goat cheese, …

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Not in My Town: Discriminatory Housing Policy and Land Misuse in Rural NC

by Curtis Lee
11/18/21

One of the largest and fastest growing concerns in America’s municipalities is that of affordable housing. While it has become increasingly clear that housing costs have outpaced wages across the US, and that there is a general shortage of affordable housing in many areas across the nation, much of the …

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Serving the Community Members of Apex

by Noor Sandhu
11/18/21

The first few months of my fellowship have been exciting and fulfilling. I am serving the Town of Apex and make up the Town’s first affordable housing staff. The Town adopted its first Affordable Housing Plan in February of 2021, and in my role, I work to execute the primary …

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“Voices from a Pandemic”: A Conversation with a Leader in Public Health

by Nyreke Peters
11/14/21

As a part of my work scope as a fellow for Edgecombe County, I’ve been asked to strategize ways to increase the county’s overall vaccination rate. Currently, the vaccination rate in Edgecombe County is less than 45%. Although the number of COVID – 19 cases in Edgecombe County remains relatively …

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The Activist’s Dilemma

by Keegan Huynh
11/14/21

I am now three months into my fellowship with the Lead for NC program. Unlike many of my colleagues I have not followed a straight path to arrive at this point. In my pursuit of a career that allows me to engage in good trouble I have watched my path …

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Letter to the Editor for Statesville Record and Landmark

by Philomena Golden
11/14/21

Brushing our teeth, turning on the tap, or watching the rain wash away; when we need resources, we expect them to just—work; we might even take it for granted. But the City of Statesville Public Works Department never presumes the responsibility of ensuring things just work for our residents. Led …

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Is Collaboration Necessary to Effectively Support Our Communities?

by Taylor Colleton
11/14/21

In theory, the goal of every great non-profit/community organization is to support the success of the most vulnerable community members. The question is, can this be achieved in the most effective way when organizations refrain from collaboration? It is impossible to ignore the tremendous impact that nonprofits currently have on …

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The Transition.

by Jasmine Dyle
11/14/21

The transition is hard, and it is something that can’t be prepared for because it’s life. Somedays will be harder than others. One day it feels like the world is at your disposal and you’re at top of the mountain skying downhill. Then, BAM suddenly you hit a rock and …

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A small town in the age of great political divide

by Zane Carroll
11/13/21

On my first day, working for the Town of Norwood, I toured around the town hall and downtown block. I was brought up to speed with the Town Revitalization plans and was introduced to, what felt like, every person in the town. Every new person I spoke to expressed their …

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Thoughts on the Salisbury Avenue Stroad

by Skye Allan
11/13/21

A Stroad is a terrible word for an appropriately named, terrible thing. The Stroad is a combination of a ‘Road’ and a ‘Street’ and is not successful at preforming the role of either. I take my research and the following definitions from the US Department of Transportation and from the …

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A Community Divided by the Past and Our Steps Moving Forward

by Paige Shepard
11/13/21

Burlington, North Carolina is not unlike most mid-sized cities in this state. It has a slightly busy downtown, lots of places to shop, and a decent spread of mom-and-pop diners. However, a quality that sets Burlington apart from other municipalities is that its population of around 50,000 is nearly 50% …

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Housing in Wilkes

by Mary Elizabeth Campbell
11/13/21

Despite ranking as one of the geographically largest counties in the state at 754.28 square miles, Wilkes County experiences one of North Carolina’s most extreme housing shortages. This election year, affordable housing, alongside attracting industry and town-sharing agreements emerged as top speaking points for North Wilkesboro’s mayoral and commissioner candidates. …

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Seizing New Opportunities

by Neal Duncan
11/13/21

After college I had the mindset that graduate school was the next step, which is until I started thinking about my personal statement. I really could not decide what my focus should be. Then there was this program I heard about, Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) and changed my plans. …

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Blog Post 1

by Maëva Hassani
11/12/21

Transitioning from college to the “real world” has been one of the hardest transitions of my life, and for someone who has moved from to the US at age 12 from another country that says a lot. I feel like the expectations we set for ourselves after graduating college are …

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Getting to know Local Government

by Mikaela Benton
11/12/21

In my first three months in Elizabeth City, I have seen so much. I came into this fellowship with limited knowledge about the inner workings of local government and now in this third month, I feel like I have seen it all. From Black Lives Matter Mural re-dedications to Technical …

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Streetscape Matters

by Nina Yao
11/12/21

Why the physical environment is crucial to your downtown and small steps to make it shine A crack in the sidewalk. A few scraps of litter. Unkempt trees. Barren, empty planters. These are all minor afflictions for our streetscapes, but in combination, present a picture that is less than welcoming. …

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Seeing Grace in Growth: Self experience in the fellowship so far

by Mya Ellis
11/11/21

At the beginning of the fellowship, I cannot even lie I was very nervous because I didn’t really have any experience involving government work besides working with CMPD. My first day at my host site was very calm and it gave me a chance to meet everyone and get a …

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Insight from Ashe

by Stephen Wright
11/11/21

Starting off my fellowship in a new place with no connections and almost no foreknowledge of what I was about to encounter was daunting. Yet as fellows, we’re expected to not only come into these situations, but work to build the capacity that our host sites have called us to …

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Governing in Decline: The 2020 Census and Shrinking Local Governments

by Richard Livingston
11/11/21

The release of the 2020 Census came with great surprise to many public administrators. 51 of North Carolina’s 100 counties experienced a decline in population from 2010 to 2020, and while the general trend was not a shock to most, the magnitude of population loss was unnerving to many. In …

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Blog Post 1

by Erin Anderson
11/11/21

Have you ever thought much about trash? Probably not, but maybe if you work in local government. During my first few weeks as the Lead for North Carolina fellow in Rockingham County, I went on various “field trips” to nearby government institutions, including to the landfill. Here, the Engineering Director …

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Looking for Space

by Metra Sheshbaradaran
11/10/21

There’s a John Denver song called “Looking for Space” that I have had on repeat since arriving in Goldsboro. The song feels particularly relatable to me at this point in my life. A time that can best be described as “a period of transition.” While I could quote the whole …

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Life Beyond Lead for NC

by Allison Marshall
04/01/21

By Allison Marshall (LFNC Fellow – Shallotte)  April 1, 2021 It’s hard to believe two years ago I was waiting to find out if I was selected as an inaugural Lead for North Carolina Fellow. I was a senior in college, unsure of where my future would take me. I’ve …

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Where Do We Fit in This Long Fight?

by Nina Worth
03/15/21

By Shelby Holmes (LFNC Fellow – Shelby) and Nina Worth (LFNC Fellow – Rockingham County) Lead for North Carolina’s model matches each fellow with a community “facing considerable challenges, [with] significant need for young talent and innovative thinking.” It’s based around the idea that, as young post-grads, we often think …

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A “Nervous” Area for Local Government

by Nina Worth
02/05/21

In “Race and Social Equity” Susan T. Gooden discusses why race and social equity prove to be a “nervous” area of government By Nina Worth (LFNC Fellow – Rockingham County) Days after America inaugurated its first woman of color as Vice President, I finished “Race and Social Equity: A Nervous …

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The Burden of Efficiency in Rural Small Towns

by Magnolia Long
02/04/21

By Magnolia Long (LFNC Fellow – Rutherfordton) During the first week of my fellowship, I had the opportunity to spend one day with each town department just to learn about the basic operations and their goals for service. I did ride-alongs with police officers, explored the brand-new public works building, …

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This Isn’t the Office I Imagined…

by Taylor Norton
09/01/20

By Taylor Norton (LFNC Fellow – Mid East Commission)  September 1, 2020 It is safe to say that when I entered my senior year at NC State, I had no idea the world would be completely different by March of 2020. The strange feeling of the year you have been …

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Reversing the Narrative

by Elizabeth Mitchell
08/31/20

By Elizabeth Mitchell (LFNC Fellow – Martin County) August 31, 2020 In my undergraduate classes at UNC Chapel Hill, I learned about the mass migration of people from rural communities to urban hubs. Our fellowship is meant to bring young people back to local governments in areas experiencing population decline. …

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Confronting Systemic Racism in Our Communities: An Essential Task for All Public Servants

by Drew Finley
08/31/20

By Drew Finely (LFNC Fellow – Hendersonville) August 31, 2020 Those who have read the New York Times bestselling book Just Mercy are familiar with civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson’s harrowing account of being racially profiled when he was practicing law in his twenties in Atlanta. One night, Stevenson was …

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Finding My Brave in the #BraveNation

by Valerie Keys
07/23/20

By Valerie Keys (LFNC Fellow – Pembroke) July 23, 2020 As a recent college graduate and a young woman at the ripe age of 22, the world is constantly reminding me that I am not a “real adult.” Not to age my beloved grandmother, but she always makes a point …

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One Life Has Breathed Easier

by Drew Finley
02/18/20

By Drew Finley (LFNC Fellow – Hendersonville) February 18, 2020 While working on a project one afternoon in my office, I came across the following phrase: “Water and sewer lines are the arteries that nourish growth in a community.” This sentence serves as the preface to the City of Greensboro’s …

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The Tables Turn

by Allison Marshall
02/13/20

By Allison Marshall (LFNC Fellow – Shallotte) February 13, 2020 Last week, I attended the N.C. State College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) career fair with our Executive Director, Dylan Russell. However, this time I was attending my alma mater’s event as a recruiter rather than as a student, …

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To a Future LFNC Applicant…

by Walker Harrison
02/12/20

By Walker Harrison (LFNC Fellow – Spindale) February 12, 2020 To a future LFNC applicant, Let me take you back to New Year’s Eve 2018.  It’s 10:30 pm and my LFNC application is due at midnight.  My apartment is pulsing with music and laughter as I, in the midst of …

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“War and Peace” and Anson County

by Liam Brailey
02/12/20

  By Liam Brailey (LFNC Fellow, Anson County) February 12, 2020 I will be the first to admit that I joined the inaugural class of LFNC for mostly selfish reasons. As a recent college graduate hoping to pursue a career in local government this program seemed like the most efficient …

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Inspired to Serve

by Sylveonna Holmes
01/27/20

Inspired to Serve With college in the rear view and the rest of life ahead, this in-between spot can be a bit overwhelming. It’s the perfect breeding ground for post grad depression. I know, it isn’t the most beautiful introduction you’ve ever read. But the truth is, so many recent …

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Rediscovering an Old Home

by Allison Marshall
11/18/19

By Allison Marshall (LFNC Fellow, Shallotte) November 18, 2019 I have tried to sit down and write this blog post several times over the past few months. I am not sure if it is just writer’s block, but I cannot seem to find the exact words to express how much …

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One Step Forward

by Saoirse Scott
11/05/19

By Saoirse Scott (LFNC Fellow, Edenton) November 5, 2019 The last four months have felt pretty surreal. It’s wild that at the end of May I had no idea what my future held and now here I am, a month and a half into my fellowship. It’s been a little …

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I’m Walking Here

by Walker Harrison
11/04/19

By Walker Harrison (LFNC Fellow, Spindale) November 4, 2019 In a UNC Planning class during my senior year, our professor tasked each student with the same mission: redesign an existing intersection and street in Chapel Hill to prioritize all users, not just cars.  To brainstorm ideas, my group went and …

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Conservation and Community

by India Mackinson
10/31/19

  By India Mackinson (LFNC Fellow, North Topsail) October 31, 2019 The flood of beach goers on Topsail Island slows after Labor Day weekend. As the sun steadily sets earlier and earlier and the nights grow cooler, a new type of visitor takes their place ⁠— saltwater anglers. It’s officially …

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The Power of “Kitchen Table and Street Corner Democracy”

by Drew Finley
10/18/19

The Power of “Kitchen Table and Street Corner Democracy” Local Governments, Citizens, and Communities of Possibility By Drew Finley (LFNC Fellow, Hendersonville) October 18, 2019 When I sit down in the Police Department Roll Call Room at City Hall for the first meeting of the City of Hendersonville Book Club, …

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Becoming a Public Servant

by Berekia Divanga
10/15/19

By Berekia Divanga October 15, 2019 Imagine being in an action movie. There is a mission that needs to be accomplished, and you volunteer to do the job because you are passionate about the purpose of this mission. As part of your training, you get to meet with people who …

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Choosing to Stay

by Camryn Locklear
10/08/19

  By Camryn Locklear October 8, 2019 Picture this: a burnt-out and overwhelmed soon-to-be college graduate in desperate need of a post-graduate job. I was struggling to decide if I wanted to be an accountant or a lawyer – two career paths that couldn’t be further on both ends of …

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Settling into North Topsail Beach

by India Mackinson
09/30/19

North Topsail Beach is a far cry from the college town of Chapel Hill that I made home the past four years. While in Chapel Hill you mainly come across college students from North Carolina, in NTB there’s people from all walks of life: marines, tourists, retirees, a surprising amount …

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How to Take on the Day

by Walker Harrison
09/30/19

The door catches and doesn’t fully close behind you as you enter the world for the day. Again. When will you learn? The sunny, blue sky day waits temptingly as you sigh, turn around, grab the door handle, and put your whole body into pulling it all the way closed. …

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Reflections on Training

by India Mackinson
09/22/19

Dante Pittman, the only LFNC fellow unable to attend the D.C. summit, didn’t know what he was walking into. Before going to the School of Government kick-off picnic, he met us for the first time, stumbling into an organized chaos of line dancing, talking, and laughing. It was clear to …

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General Perceptions of My Community

by Sylveonna Holmes
09/21/19

Clinton, North Carolina is both familiar and uncharted territory. I was born at Sampson Regional Medical Center — minutes away from my current office, but I grew up 45 minutes east in Beulaville. I thought that I knew Clinton, but coming into work 4 weeks ago proved that I did …

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