When recent college graduates go prospecting for public service jobs, few bother to drop off their résumés at city hall. “Local government is not even on their radar,” admits Micki Callahan, San Francisco’s human resources director. Across the country, many big cities face the same empty pipeline just as a wave of baby boomers prepares to retire.

A new program dubbed City Hall Fellows is designed to bring eager young faces into municipal government and help avert a looming talent shortage....

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