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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.

The following is the timeline for confirming local governments, selecting and matching fellows, and training fellows for cohort 2:

  • January 20, 2020
    • Local government commits to participate in program
  • April 23 and 24, 2020
    • Local governments interview perspective fellows at SOG
  • By May 1, 2020
    • Local government enters into contracts with SOG and fellow
  • May 1-31, 2020
    • Local government assists fellow with identifying housing (if needed)
  • June 1 – 20, 2020
    • SOG Summer training program
  • June 21 – 27, 2020
    • National conference for fellows in Boston, MA
  • By July 15, 2020
    • LFNC Fellow starts in host jurisdiction

LFNC is currently recruiting local governments to participate in its second fellowship year. We are still piloting different program parameters. The first cohort was a 2-year fellowship. This second cohort will be a 1-year fellowship, running from approximately July 15, 2020-July 14, 2021.


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

Training and Support (paid to SOG):                $  8,000

Total:     $38,100*

*Note that subsidies are available to Tier I local governments; subsidy amounts may cover up to 70% of the cost of the fellowship program. Subsidies will be distributed once a quarter on a reimbursement-basis.


The following chart indicates the subsidy amounts for qualifying local governments. An additional pool of money will be available to provide additional subsidies to qualifying Tier I local governments.


Economic Tier

(2019 or 2020 classification)



Total Cost to

Local Government


(above 25k population)

$13,100 $25,000



(10k-25k population)

$18,100 $20,000



(less than 10k population)

$28,100 $10,000


II & III $0 $38,100


  • 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.
    • 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.


  • Identify specific projects and/or scope of work for fellow to perform during fellowship period. Include a mix of short- and long-term projects.
  • Assign a direct supervisor to the fellow who will provide regular feedback to the fellow and conduct quarterly performance assessments and reviews.
  • Identify one or more mentors to the fellow to help the fellow become an accepted and productive member of the local government.
  • Conduct weekly check-ins with the fellow.
  • Afford fellow meaningful training and professional development opportunities.
  • 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 data collection requirements of the program.



We welcome any NC local government to apply to host a fellow, including regional local government entities. Our selection criteria will favor a government with demonstrated capacity needs, a commitment to providing meaningful work and professional development opportunities for a fellow, and the ability to financially cover the costs of the program. Priority will be given to local governments located in Tier I counties

Local governments interested in hosting fellows will be asked to complete an application in December 2019 or early January 2020. We are committed to creating a process that has as low of barriers to entry as possible. As such, the application will take minimal time to complete.

Local governments must be able to provide a firm commitment to host a fellow in July 2020 by January 20, 2020. This will allow LFNC the opportunity to recruit highly qualified applicants with regional connections to your jurisdiction.


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 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.

Fellows are eligible to earn up to 6 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.


Lead for North Carolina’s mission is to prepare the next generation of future public service in North Carolina. We hope to help young leaders return to their hometowns / regions in service of their communities — particularly to places that struggle the most to recruit and retain young talent. As such, we focus on placing fellows in rural and economically distressed communities, and understand that for many of these host institutions, 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 and work to do everything we can to support financially strapped host institutions in creatively financing their fellowship.

Our team can work with your government on the following opportunities.

  • Receive a Subsidy from the Program. Thanks to the generosity of the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation we are able to offer Tier I governments (classification in 2019 or 2020) subsidies ranging from $16,325 to $31,325. Additionally, Tier I governments can apply for an additional subsidy up to $5,000 from a competitive award pool of $30,000 to help offset costs.
  • Place Based Philanthropy. Many family/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. We believe that community-based foundations, corporations, and private donors could help local governments finance fellows and could 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.
  • 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 could play the coordinating role across these jurisdictions and move strategies forward on projects that risk stalling because of the lack of a dedicated person acting as coordinator.

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

This is just a small sample of the type of work fellows might engage with in your community. We encourage you to learn more about the placements and work of our 1st cohort of fellows at

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.

On a quarterly basis, jurisdictions receiving subsidies will invoice the School of Government for the full amount of the fellow employee compensation (salary, payroll taxes, and, if applicable, local government’s contribution towards fellow’s health insurance plan). The jurisdiction will be reimbursed for this amount (minus one-quarter of your unit’s remaining financial contribution, if applicable).

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.

Fellows must be familiar with the history and culture of the communities in which they will serve—a critical component of local government work generally. Our priority is to identify Fellows from the host communities. But all of our fellows will be from North Carolina and will have a strong familial / regional connection to their host jurisdiction. 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 1, 2020.