Best and Brightest Management Internship and Fellowship Program


Program Purpose

The Department of Local Affairs Best and Brightest Management Internship and Fellowship Program, formerly the Cathy Shipley Best and Brightest Internship Program, partners with counties, municipalities and universities across the state, striving to meet the needs of communities, engage future leaders, and meet students where they are in their professional development, connecting them to community work that sparks their curiosity and leads them to work in public service.  

Initially named in recognition of a former DOLA Regional Manager whose career trajectory, dedication and love of local government exemplified the model of earning a Master’s in Public Administration while working in the field, this program combines classroom studies with the real world experience of working in the public sector. Cathy’s professional life proved to be an inspiration to those who followed her footsteps and it is with this model in mind that the Department of Local Affairs has long supported increasing capacity in rural Colorado, finding innovative ways for communities to meet their current administrative needs and look towards the future.  This program actively forwards equity, diversity, and inclusion in public service and public administration studies.  An integral component of that work is helping to mold new community leaders and setting the stage for their success.  It is important that future leaders of our communities reflect our communities and this Internship and Fellowship Program is a natural pipeline to make that happen.

The program will work with local governments, students and educators in various ways:

  • Paid summer or semester internships for high school seniors
  • Paid summer or semester internships for undergraduate students
  • Two-year paid fellowship for MPA & MPPA students studying at the CU Denver’s Center for New Directions (Political Science), CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs, Adams State University, or College of Liberal Arts at Colorado State University

These partnerships meet the following objectives:

  • To increase the likelihood of high school students choosing a public service path once they enter post-secondary education
  • To introduce local government real-world work at the undergraduate level, ensuring higher success at the graduate level
  • To provide a unique opportunity for students to complete their graduate degree while gaining invaluable real world learning experiences
  • To develop potential local government managers, planners, economic and community development directors
  • To provide a way for DOLA to support small and/or rural jurisdictions in meeting their administrative staffing needs in the most cost effective way possible


DOLA Regional Managers will identify potential jurisdictions and work with local managers to determine possible participation. Each jurisdiction will determine its own needs and job requirements for an intern or fellow. Local government managers considered for the program must develop a work plan and job description, including job duties. Mentorship plans are required for the 2-year fellowship program.

High school and undergraduate internships are paid based on the work being completed. Students must be recommended by their schools and maintain good academic standing. 

Individuals accepted into the fellowship program will be expected to take all necessary credit hours according to the academic program in which they are enrolled and maintain good academic standing. Each University Partner has an identified a verification process by which students are selected to apply and interview for a Fellowship position.


Interested local governments must contact their DOLA Regional Manager. Interested students should first contact their academic program director or the DOLA Program Manager, Christy Doon.


High school and undergraduate internships are available on an on-going basis. Graduate Fellows will be placed on July 1, 2021. The application process begins January 1, 2021.

Bill Shrum, 2020 Fellowship Alumni

Speaking as a student with a Bachelor’s degree in environmental design and a Master’s degree in communication prior to my executive MPA experience, the Best and Brightest internship program has been, bar none, the most meaningful and impactful internship program I have ever done in school. My career path was forged by the Best and Brightest program, and for that I will be not only forever grateful, but advocate loudly that more students should participate in the Best and Brightest Internship if a career in local government management is your goal.

Jenn Ooton, 2012 Fellowship Alumni

Working full-time in the Community Development Department at the City of Lafayette, I finished my Master of Public Administration and learned first-hand about how to approach redevelopment of a downtown, the power of caring for a community and the importance of innovation in a small city. Since then, I’ve held a number of roles within the municipal governance structure, including my current position as the City of Glenwood Springs Assistant City Manager. I would absolutely recommend this management internship for anyone looking to enter a career in local government.”

*Ooton is 2020 Assistant of the Year Awarded by Colorado City and County Managers Association

Trish Stiles, Bennet City Manager

The Town of Bennett had its first Best and Brightest intern from January 2018-December 2020. The experience was so amazing and our intern became so valuable to our team we hired her before the end of the program. For a small community like Bennett, having a professional join our team is substantial. We are a small community with big change on the horizon and having a person jump in for help in key areas proved very effective for our community. We have enjoyed the program so much that we are eager to do it again.  

Matt Gordon, 2020 Fellowship Alumni

Without my experience as a Best and Brightest, I'm not sure that I ever would have gotten my start working in government. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity and thankful to everyone for giving me a shot to be a Best and Brightest. If you're a City Manager or Mayor and you don't have a Best and Brightest in your community, you're missing a seriously valuable opportunity to help guide and educate the future leaders of Colorado government.  

Caitlin Lovett, 2020 Fellow

Since beginning my position as the Local Government Management Intern for Larimer County, I have had the opportunity to meet amazing leaders both at Larimer and throughout Colorado. Linda Hoffmann, the County Manager, has already taught me more about being a strong, ethical leader than I'd ever previously learned. She is complimented and balanced by Lorenda Volker, the Assistant County Manager, who is also an incredibly strong leader, but with a very different style of leadership. Between Linda and Lorenda, I couldn't ask for better role models and mentors. As the Local Government Management Intern, I have had the opportunity to observe and participate in projects and processes that I would have never had the opportunity to engage in before. I have worked on projects for many of the County's different departments: from Natural Resources to Human Resources. I have had several chances to present my work to the Board of County Commissioners, and improve my public speaking. The most rewarding piece of my internship has been all of the fantastic people I have been able to meet who also work for Larimer County. Getting to speak to and learn from so many different individuals, each an expert in their own fields, has been beyond rewarding. And it is all thanks to the DOLA Best and Brightest Management Fellowship that I have been able to experience all of this and make the connections within the amazing Colorado Local Government Community.

Taeler Houlberg, 2019 Fellowship Alumni

My experience with the Best & Brightest program was substantial. Not only was I able to gain experience in the local government field while I finished my degree, but it also gave me the security of having a steady income and health insurance. That was so important for me because it allowed me to truly focus on my school program and succeed academically.  I also can't emphasize enough how important the Best & Brightest community has been in my life. It's helped me grow in both a personal and professional capacity and introduced me to individuals I know I can rely on for the rest of my career.



For more information about participating as a host jurisdiction, contact your DOLA Regional Manager.

Program Manager

Christy Doon