Preparing the Next Generation of County Managers Through Fellowships

The North Carolina Association of County Commissioners/ICMA Local Government Management Joint Fellowship Program: Reaching rural communities and the next generation of local government leaders.

ARTICLE | Jul 13, 2016

Several years ago the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) recognized they were approaching a wave of managerial retirements across the state. With these retirements, counties will lose a wealth of knowledge and experience, and replacing these managers will be difficult, especially in rural counties that have no assistant managers, no plans for succession, and tight personnel budgets. In 2012, the NCACC piloted the County Management Fellowship Program to help infuse North Carolina county governments with the next generation of professional county managers.

Through discussions with MPA students and faculty, NCACC determined that there were not many MPA candidates who desired or knew much about careers in county government. NCACC intern Sana Khan researched fellowships and internships nationwide and concluded that NCACC should model a program after ICMA’s Local Government Management Fellowship (LGMF) program and partner with ICMA in the joint program.

NCACC recognized that while some North Carolina counties, such as Durham and Catawba, had already hosted an ICMA Local Government Management Fellow, the majority of counties, which are rural and often face more budget contraints, were not likely to receive board support for funding a fellow. NCACC offers assistance with salary and other potential incentives for county managers who are willing to provide meaningful mentor relationships and career-building opportunities through the program. NCACC also covers the fellows' membership dues for NCACC and the North Carolina City County Management Association (NCCCMA), so that fellows can attend their events, conferences, and seminars free of cost, in addition to the benefits the ICMA LGMF program provides. This financial support is vital to the success of the joint program.


“This program gives county managers an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in a mentoring relationship with a promising young professional. At the same time, those county managers are getting quality help with some salary assistance from the association. It’s a win-win for all those involved,” explains Jason King, associate director of education, NCACC. “NCACC President Glen Webb, our board of directors, and our membership see great value in supporting the ICMA fellows program,” shared NCACC Executive Director Kevin Leonard. “There’s nothing like on-the-job experience to prepare our future leaders, and we see it as our responsibility to help provide this type of training.” 

John A. Crumpton, county manager, Lee County, speaks highly of the program and the fellows, “Our overall goal is to prepare them for a career in local government. In return we have used their talents to help us develop new programs, take on critical projects, and become part of our management team, and the county has received a lot of benefit from the work and talents that the fellows bring to our organization.” Bill Rich, county manager, Hyde County added, “The NCACC shared fellow program was phenomenal. We were matched with the PERFECT fellow for me and my staff and the community of Hyde.”

NCACC Fellowship logo

Fellows also recognize the benefit of taking part in the joint program. Will Doefer, former fellow in Hyde County explains, “Having support from both ICMA and NCACC pretty much doubled the benefits. I was able to attend several NC conferences with little or no cost to the county, and several networking events that I may not have had access to as an ICMA Fellow alone.” Ashley Qualls, fellow from Rockingham County agrees, “ICMA provided several opportunities to network with and learn from local government professionals throughout the country and the world, and being an NCACC Fellow provided me with opportunities to build relationships closer to home.”

The NCACC County Fellowship Program is a creative example of collaboration within a state and with ICMA to provide talent to rural local governments while helping to build the future of the profession. Lancaster, Wisconsin, and Dubuque, Iowa; University Place and Federal Way, Washington; and the county of Durham and the city of Durham, NC; and several communities in Oregon have partnered together to share fellows when they were unable to host one on their own.

The ICMA Local Government Management Fellowship program is a highly competitive career-development opportunity for recent MPA/MPP graduates looking for their first job in local government management.  Fellows are selected through a competitive process and placed in one- and two-year full-time management-track local government positions, shaped by direct mentorship under senior government leaders and rotational assignments. 

The LGMF program attracts and places diverse groups of candidates interested in professional local government service. In 2016 53 percent of the applicants for fellowships were women and 43 percent were African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities. Working with the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), International Hispanic Network (IHN), National Association of Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), and Women Leading Government (WLG), ICMA will continue to expand the pipeline of the next generation of local government leaders. 

If you are interested in hosting a fellow or discussing other possibilities, contact Rob Carty at The application for the 2017 Fellowship Program will launch September 19, 2016. Submit a letter of intent to host early to have your commuity listed when students apply in September.


Additional Resources:

NCACC County Fellowship Program

ICMA Local Government Fellowship Program

Host a LGMF

Share a LGMF

Become a LGMF

Contact for more information.

You may also be interested in