During a recent conference call with Durham County, NC, Deputy County Manager Lee Worsley and Local Government Management Fellow Emily Leik, the most repeated word during the call was “value.” For Leik, the value of being a fellow is the opportunity to boost her passion and confidence in her chosen career of local government management and the chance to soak up the knowledge that seasoned city and county managers have to share with the next generation.
For Worsley, by working with fellows for almost six years, he says that his community is able to keep up with new ideas and trends. Seeing the fellow's passion and excitement as they begin their careers has helped him remain energized.
The fellowship program that Worsley and Leik have is rare. In a partnership between the county of Durham, and the city of Durham, North Carolina, a cooperative arrangement to share a fellow allows Leik to learn about both county and city government independently, while also learning how they function together for the betterment of the community. Her time is split 50/50 between the two, though she has the flexibility to spend more time on a project if needed. Worsley and Wanda Page, the deputy city manager and her mentor in the city, have agreed that in the end it evens out.
On the application process, Leik jokes, “As a student writing my thesis, it was great to only have to fill everything out once.” With ICMA managing the application process, local governments can be sure that they will receive the best crop of screened applicants. Worsley says that this makes it quite difficult to select a fellow because the finalist pool is highly qualified, “but this is a problem I like to have.”
A sentiment that both Worsley and Leik echo at the end of call is: If you are on the fence about hosting a fellow, do it—you won’t regret it. You will find their passion and willingness to learn and do great work invaluable for your community. If you are a recent MPA student or about to graduate from grad school, you should apply. You will gain experience, knowledge, and a chance to work with experienced managers who can help you begin a career on the right track.