DePaul University Career Center's Blog

You too can be Leslie Knope! A Blue Demon Guide to working in Local Government

By: Ellie Santonato, Career Community Advisor

I may have an unpopular opinion, but I have always liked Parks and Recreation more than The Office. What drew me to Parks and Rec as a show was my interest in working for the government; I always knew it was an industry of interest for some point in my career. I hope this statement did not discourage everyone from making an appointment with me!

The show provides insight and a vision of what it was like to work within the city (local) government. Individuals, especially students, have no idea what career opportunities are available if there is no accessible information about the different careers or representation within the media. 

Now, Parks and Recreation could have been a better show regarding all the different types of representation. Still, it did provide examples of the kind of work you can do within the government without becoming a politician, especially within the local government system. 

What is Local Government? 

Local government can be broken up into two categories: counties and municipalities. Municipal governments are defined by the state constitutions and can be called townships, villages, boroughs, cities, or towns. 

According to The White House’s definition, population density matters when organizing municipal governments. They are designated to correspond with geographical characteristics used by the United States Census Bureau for reporting housing and population statistics. 

States grant local governments power, and local workers perform functions pertaining only to their jurisdiction, such as county road maintenance, library services, and garbage collection. 

Who are Local Government Workers? 

All Local (and State) Government Workers are public employees and they are required to live in the communities that their work impacts.

The majority of these workers include educators; teachers, aides, and support staff working in the nation’s elementary, middle, and high schools. 

You can find careers in

  • Education (Elementary & Secondary) – 6.9 million jobs 
  • Protective Services – 2.4 million jobs 
  • Higher Education – 2.0 million jobs 
  • Health – 0.8 million jobs 
  • Transportation – 0.8 million jobs 
  • Librairies, Housing, Community Development, and Other – 0.8 million jobs 
  • Financial and Administrative – 0.8 million jobs 
  • Public Welfare – 0.5 million jobs 
  • Public utilities and Waste Management – 0.5 million jobs
  • Environment and Recreation – 0.4 million jobs 

How does the Local Government Hiring Process Work? 

Getting a job in local government is very similar to applying for positions at different organizations. 

First, you find the job posting, accrue your application materials which include filling out the application, attaching your resume and cover letter, and finally, hitting the apply button. 

Then just like applying for an organization, they receive your application. Thus the next phase of the hiring process begins, which involves reviewing the application. Please note that the process and time in which applications are reviewed and candidates are selected for screening usually takes much longer than for a single organization. The application process for government work can be as long as six months. 

After the phone screenings occur with the selected candidates, a recruiter makes their recommendation to the hiring manager. The hiring manager and other members of the department will interview the top candidates. This process can include multiple rounds of interviews and skills assessments, which may take the form of giving a presentation to the department. 

After all the applicants have gone through the interview process, a decision will be made by the hiring manager. The department members will give advice and recommendations. 

Finally, a candidate will be selected and offered the position after weeks or, more likely, months. Once the applicant accepts, the organization will officially fill the position.

Where can you find Local Government Jobs? 

The best place to look for local government jobs is the human resources or open employment opportunities pages for your desired county or municipality. If you are looking for job search sites I recommend using and (rc stands for roll call). 

Tips for Applying to Local Government Jobs: 

  • Only apply for jobs where you meet the minimum qualifications: Unlike other industries where it is more okay to apply for positions where you do not meet the minimum requirements, local government is different. Local governments can not afford that same luxury. 
  • Work your network: Some local government positions can be very competitive. In addition, more and more jobs are being filled less by qualification alone, but by who the applicants know in the industry/organization. As you begin to prepare applying for local government positions, research who is currently working in those departments. Reach out via LinkedIn and start conducting informational interviews. Check out these two Career Library resources: Networking 101 and Information Interviews  
  • Check Application Deadlines & Follow-up: Not all job postings will indicate the date the application closes, however, many government agencies do include that information. Whether you are applying for a government position or not, it is a good idea to organize your search and take note of when the job application is due. Finally, once you have submitted your application consider sending a follow-up email to the recruiter or hiring manager. You may not get a response but at least you tried! 

Local Government Jobs You Must be Elected for: 

Although the majority of local government positions are filled through the traditional application process as described above, many still require getting elected into. Check the local county or municipality for its qualifications and procedures on getting onto the ballot. Many of these positions run uncontested. 

Here is a list of the elected position within local government: 

  • School Boards
  • Sheriffs
  • Prosecutors
  • Coroners
  • Trial Court Judges
  • City Council
  • Mayor
  • County Board of Supervisors
  • Planning and Zoning Commissioner 
  • Public Works Commissioner
  • Comptroller
  • Commissioner of Revenue

Now it’s time to rewatch Parks and Recreation


Not sure what the future holds? Need support along the way? That’s exactly where we come in. Whether you’re a freshman or an alumnus, it’s never too early (or too late) to utilize our services.

Book an appointment with Ellie, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431. 

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