Careers in Local Government


Are you interested in or passionate about making a difference in your community? Do you think you have the skills, abilities, and experiences to make that sort of difference, but imagine that trying to do so in local government would lack opportunities to be creative, limit your earning power, and/or provide a dearth of variety in types of work? Well, think again. This panel will provide you with a diverse perspective on what a career in local government looks like, how to get your foot in the door, why working in local government is fulfilling, interesting, and not what you might imagine. 


Ameya Pawar, 47th Ward Alderman, Chicago (MS Threat and Response Management 2009, MA Social Service Administration 2013)

The son of Indian immigrants, Alderman Ameya Pawar was born and raised in Illinois. In 2011, he beat the Chicago machine to become alderman of Chicago’s 47th Ward, the first Asian American in the City Council. In 2015, Ameya was re-elected with 82% of the vote, the largest margin in the city. Since taking office, Ameya has secured millions of dollars for schools in his community. Ameya’s work on neighborhood schools—helping families stay in one neighborhood from kindergarten through 12th grade—is seen by many as a model for the city. Ameya has led efforts to pass several pieces of progressive legislation focusing on social justice, workers’ rights, and government reforms. Highlights include the Chicago paid sick leave ordinance, the creation of an independent budget office, the passage of one the nation’s strongest anti-wage theft ordinances, and the preservation of affordable housing. Growing up, Ameya attended public schools. He went on to earn two master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and one from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2014 he co-authored a textbook on emergency management, disaster policy, social justice, and community resiliency with his wife Charna Epstein. The book proposes a new model for understanding the interconnectedness of communities to help emergency managers better prepare. Ameya and Charna have presented their work at conferences across the country. Charna is the chief operating officer of the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago. Charna and Ameya live in a 100-year-old home in Chicago with a pit bull named Baby and their actual baby girl, Sigalit. In their free time, Charna and Ameya enjoy the outdoors—from Lake Michigan to Shawnee National Forest to Starved Rock State Park to the Mississippi Palisades State Park. LinkedIn

Alexandra Holt, Budget Director, City of Chicago (MPP 1992, JD 2007)

Alexandra Holt was named Budget Director by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011. She oversees the development and management of Chicago’s $9.8 billion annual operating budget as well as Chicago’s capital budget. Over her tenure, Ms. Holt implemented multiple financial reforms and operational controls, resulting in the recent turnaround of the City’s financial health. Ms. Holt also played a central role in the development and execution of long-term funding and reform legislation for the City’s four pension funds. In addition, she is part of the Mayor’s senior leadership team surrounding various management and policy initiatives, including tax increment financing, labor management, and performance management. LinkedIn

Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry, Chicago Commission on Human Relations (MPP 2013)

Kelly Suzanne Saulsberry is the Director of Policy and Outreach at the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, the civil rights department at the City of Chicago. In her role, she works on policy, community building, and public engagement initiatives. Previously, she served as a Deputy Policy Director in the Chicago Mayor's Office. An advocate for racial, gender, and economic equity and LGBTQ rights, Kelly serves on the leadership advisory councils of Affinity Community Services and the Pride Action Tank at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, both of which advocate for and serve diverse LGBTQ communities and youth in Chicago. She also serves on the board of SHE100, an engaged social and philanthropic network of LGBTQ women in Chicago. Kelly earned a BA from Wellesley College and an MPP from the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy. LinkedIn

Kathryn O'Connell, Chief Operating Officer, Office of the City Clerk (MA Loyola Political Science/Public Policy 2007)

Kathryn O’Connell currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for the Office of City Clerk overseeing the day-to-day operations of the City Hall office in addition to 2 community satellite locations and approximately 400 third party seller locations. As COO, she collaborates with community stakeholders and labor partners as well as senior staff across city departments and sister agencies to create solutions and share the City’s ongoing efforts. In her last role, Kathryn served in the Mayor’s Office for 10 ½ years, first as a Scheduler then as the Assistant to the Mayor for Public Policy for Mayor Richard M. Daley. She remained on staff through the 2011 transition and served the as the Director of the Mayor’s Office Fellowship Program for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, growing the program into the country’s leading municipal fellowship. Born and raised in New York, Kathryn now makes her home in the Oriole Park neighborhood on the far northwest side of the city with her husband, two children, and dog. And in between chasing them around, she tries to steal time to bake, debate the merits of deep dish vs. thin crust, discuss politics, and root for the Yankees and her beloved Blackhawks - in no particular order. Kat is also a member of the Oriole Park School Education Foundation Board and a member of the host committee for the United State of Women Conference coming to Chicago in June 2017. She holds a BA in political science from Fairfield University and an MA in political science and public policy from Loyola University Chicago. LinkedIn


Carol Brown, Executive Director, Harris Policy Labs & Director, Daly Fellowship (JD Chicago-Kent)

Carol Brown is Executive Director of the Harris Policy Labs and Director of the Richard M. Daley Distinguished Senior Fellowship at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, two distinct programs that provide graduate students with innovative experiential learning opportunities to enhance preparation for careers and leadership in public policy.  In these capacities, Ms. Brown has developed and led implementation of programs that engage students in policy consultancy projects for government and nonprofit clients, including a first-of-its-kind partnership between the Harris School and the City of Gary, Indiana, and a multi-year speaker series on urban issues led by former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley.   Previously, Ms. Brown spent 14 years with the City of Chicago in positions of increasing responsibility and scope, including as Chief of Policy in the Mayor’s Office, Associate Director of the City of Chicago’s Office of Intergovernmental Affairs in Washington DC, and Assistant to the Commissioner at the City’s Department of Environment. Ms. Brown is a licensed attorney.  Prior to City government, she worked as an attorney in the energy and telecommunications fields and held positions in transportation and banking. She has a J.D. from Illinois Institute of Technology-Chicago Kent College of Law, with a Certificate in Environmental and Energy Law, and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. LinkedIn