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For governments

Lead for North Carolina is just what small, rural local governments need. We would never have attracted the much-needed talent we gained without this program.

Kris Noble
Manager, Hyde County


Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) recruits, trains, and places promising young leaders in paid, full-time local government fellowships. We are a program of the UNC School of Government, a trusted partner for thousands of North Carolina local governments, agencies, and public officials. 

Apply now to host a Lead for North Carolina Fellow in your organization!

Each year we pair interested local governments with promising young leaders. Our fellowship program creates future public service leaders who transform North Carolina communities and strengthen the state’s public institutions. 


The application period for local governments is open each year from January through early March. In their applications, local governments must identify a work scope and explain how the fellow will add capacity to their organization. A primary goal for the LFNC team is to select local governments that have a clear need, would benefit from added capacity, and can provide the fellow with meaningful work. While the program is open to all local governments, we encourage Tier 1 and Tier 2 communities to apply.

Each spring, our team works to recruit the next cohort of Lead for North Carolina fellows. We are seeking fellows with a connection to North Carolina and a demonstrated commitment to public service. Prospective fellows go through an initial interview process with UNC School of Government faculty and staff.

After our team narrows the pool of prospective fellows, local government hosts interview candidates who may be a good fit for their jurisdiction. These interviews take place in late May and early June, and the matching process is complete by mid-June.

In July, our final cohort of fellows participates in a mandatory three-week intensive Summer Academy at the School of Government. During this graduate-level training opportunity, fellows learn about the structure and purpose of local government and the fundamentals of local government law. School of Government faculty and staff also provide extensive ongoing support to fellows throughout the year, including retreats and additional training.

In August, fellows start working with their local government local government. Their projects may be focused on community health, economic development, education, environmental issues, finance, recovery and resilience, or many other issues. Our fellows become an integral part of their workplace and their host community, often volunteering for local organizations outside their work.

  • January: Applications open for local government host sites. Applications are due by March 8, 2024. Host site commitments are due by the end of March 2024.
  • February: Applications open for prospective fellows. Applications are due by April 12, 2024.
  • April: Prospective fellows interview with current fellows, program alumni, and UNC School of Government faculty and staff.
  • May: Local governments interview incoming fellows for positions. Following interviews, fellows are matched with local governments for the upcoming fellowship cycle.
  • June: If needed, local governments assist fellows with identifying and securing housing.
  • July: Summer Academy for fellows takes place at the School of Government.
  • August: Fellows begin a year of service in their host jurisdiction.
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Lead for North Carolina’s mission is to strengthen North Carolina’s public institutions, support its local communities, and create a new generation of transformational public service leaders. We hope to help young leaders return to their hometowns and regions to serve their communities.

We focus on placing fellows in rural and economically distressed communities. Our team understands that, for many of these host governments, financial resources are often significantly limited. While we believe that it is important for all host governments to have “skin in the game” in the form of financial contribution, we are also committed to accessibility. We work to do everything we can to support these host institutions in creatively financing their fellowship. Some of these solutions include:

  • Receive a Subsidy from the Program: We are able to offer governments in economically distressed communities subsidies. Please email our team at lfnc@sog.unc.edu to receive an estimate of your expected contribution.
  • Place-Based Philanthropy: Many family and local foundations and corporations understand the mission of Lead for North Carolina and would be happy to support your government and underwrite costs associated with hosting fellows. These community-based foundations, corporations, and private donors can help local governments finance fellows and may even contribute to the education and training of fellows. The School of Government’s development team is happy to work alongside your government to explore community-based fundraising options. Email our team at lfnc@sog.unc.edu to learn more.
  • Cost Sharing with Other Jurisdictions. Consider sharing a fellow with a neighboring jurisdiction or county to cut costs. This allows for fellows to work on regional issues while providing constant communication between jurisdictions. Fellows can play the coordinating role across these jurisdictions and move forward on projects that risk stalling because of the lack of a coordinator.
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The School of Government provides initial training to the fellows, followed by ongoing support for both fellows and host governments throughout the course of the fellowship. Prior to the start of their fellowship, fellows participate in up to three weeks of graduate-level training hosted by the School. Through this Summer Academy, fellows build on leadership, communication, and presentation skills while increasing their knowledge about economic development, emergency management, capital finance, and budgeting. The training requires fellows to participate in case studies, deliver group presentations, and produce memos for evaluation by School faculty. Participation in the Summer Academy and all subsequent training is required as part of the program. Absences are not permitted.

We often look for opportunities to engage the fellow’s supervisor and colleagues in our training model. The School provides quarterly trainings to host site supervisors and fellows. Additionally, fellows participate in weekly Zoom calls as well as advanced training on a selected topic around the six-month mark of the fellowship.

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. Lead for North Carolina works closely with Lead for America, LFNC is administered and operated by the UNC School of Government.

The School is responsible for the local government recruitment, fellow recruitment, fellow training and support, and program administration in North Carolina. The School has invested significant resources to ensure Lead for North Carolina’s success. The program was designed by a small group of faculty and staff members and has a program team dedicated to maintaining operations.

LFNC is designed to meet the needs of the host jurisdiction, which means the scope of work varies across jurisdictions. During pre-fellowship summer training, the manager and fellow co-create a workplan to meet the fellow’s professional development goals and the jurisdiction’s needs. Our fellows have worked on the following projects:

  • Grant research and procurement
  • 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 and resiliency
  • Language translation to increase access to government services
  • Intergovernmental relations
  • Interjurisdictional collaboration
  • Infrastructure projects
  • Utilities projects
  • Event planning

Each host government must commit to meeting these requirements to participate.

  • Supervise the fellow, which includes assigning a direct supervisor who will provide regular feedback and conduct quarterly performance assessments and review. (The fellow will be employed by UNC-Chapel Hill.)
  • Abide by UNC-Chapel Hill policies and AmeriCorps policies and procedures.
  • Identify specific projects and/or a scope of work for the fellow to perform during the fellowship period. This scope should include a mix of short- and long-term projects.
  • Identify one or more mentors to help the fellow integrate into the workplace and become a productive colleague.
  • Conduct weekly check-ins with the fellow.
  • Provide meaningful training and professional development opportunities and allow the fellow to participate in any required LFNC trainings.
  • If needed, assist the fellow in locating reasonable rental housing.
  • Keep the LFNC program team informed of any issues with the fellow or fellowship.
  • Comply with any data collection requirements of the program.

Fellows receive a living stipend of $35,000 divided into 11 monthly installments. A local government’s commitment is determined on a sliding scale based on financial need. Units will be responsible for varying amounts depending on their financial resources. 

For legal purposes, fellows are employed by UNC-Chapel Hill, with the service year beginning in August. The jurisdiction provides a supervisor to set the work scope and provide day-to-day supervision.

Fellows receive health insurance and a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of more than $7,300 to use toward graduate school expenses or existing student loans. Fellows also receive student loan forbearance and three graduate credits from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Any North Carolina local government is welcome to apply to host a fellow, including regional local government entities (Councils of Government, or COGs). LFNC also welcomes applications from state agencies and organizations conducting community-based work.

The program’s selection criteria favor governments that demonstrate the following:

  • Capacity needs
  • A commitment to providing meaningful work and professional development opportunities for a fellow
  • The ability to financially cover the costs of participation

Priority is given to local governments located in economically distressed communities with demonstrated need.

LFNC is committed to creating a process that has a low barrier to entry; as such, the application takes minimal time to complete. Applications are due in early March, and host jurisdictions must provide a firm commitment to host a fellow by the end of March. 

Once LFNC has a firm commitment from the host governments, we actively recruit a diverse pool of young leaders from public and private universities to fill those fellowship positions. LFNC focuses on recruiting public service-minded individuals, and in many cases, the program provides an opportunity or young leaders to return to their hometowns to serve their communities.

Fellows must complete a detailed and rigorous screening process to ensure a final pool of high-quality applicants. These individuals have demonstrated a commitment to public service, a strong interest in the local government profession, and a record of exemplary personal character. Managers or hiring directors from the host jurisdictions are invited to interview a select pool of fellows, many of whom may have connections to the region in which the local government is located. This virtual interview process takes place in late spring. LFNC finalizes employment contracts between selected fellows and governments in mid-June each year.

LFNC focuses on placing fellows in rural and economically distressed communities, which means that financial resources available to host a fellow are often limited. While it is important for all host governments to be invested in the program in the form of a financial contribution, LFNC is also committed to accessibility. Our team works to support host governments in creatively financing their fellowships. Some of these solutions may include the following:

  • Program subsidy: Subsidies are available to all local government host partners. Subsidy amounts are determined by economic need and population and vary on a sliding scale. LFNC uses the NC Department of Commerce’s tier ranking and the Economic Innovation Group’s Distressed Community Index (by zip code and by county) to determine the subsidy amount. The most economically distressed communities (“Tier I” or “Distressed”) with the lowest population can expect to receive subsidies of up to 85 percent of the total cost. On a quarterly basis, jurisdictions will be invoiced for their agreed upon cost share.
    • Subsidy amount: The total subsidy amount a community will receive is influenced by the overall composition of the host site applicant pool. This is because subsidies are drawn from a shared fund and allocated according to community need. For example, if a larger proportion of host sites have economic need, the pool will be distributed to more governments and subsidy amounts may be smaller.
  • Cost-sharing with other jurisdictions: Governments may consider sharing a fellow with a neighboring jurisdiction or county to cut costs. This allows for fellows to work on regional issues while providing regular communication between jurisdictions. Fellows can play a coordinating role across jurisdictions and ensure forward momentum for projects that risk stalling because of the lack of a coordinator.

Do you need additional capacity to tackle meaningful projects?

Do you have HR infrastructure to support a junior professional?

Can you meet the financial requirements?

May 29, 2024

WHQR sat down with Talula Dechev, a Lead for NC fellow based in Columbus County, to talk about her work in water infrastructure and rental inspections.

January 19, 2024

The first cohort of Lead for North Carolina Fellows made a splash in communities across the state, launching meaningful projects with real-world impact.

January 19, 2024

Fellow Nick Boyd’s work with the Community Rating System program earned recognition for reducing flood insurance premiums for county homeowners.

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