Brian Briscoe, 50, has been appointed secretary of the Local Government Association.
He beat competition from Bob Chilton, chief executive of the Local Government Commission, Rodney Brooke, secretary of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and John Harwood, chief executive of Oxfordshire county council for the Pounds 95,000 post.
Mr Briscoe has the job of merging the local authorities organisations - the Association of County Councils, Association of District Councils and Association of Metropolitan Authorities.
They collectively account for 25 per cent of public spending and employ 2.5 million people.
Mr Briscoe said: "The creation of the LGA gives the cities, counties and districts in this country a unique opportunity to speak with one voice and influence our governors, here and in Europe.
"It will be my task to ensure that local democracy and local public services are at the top of the national agenda."
Mr Briscoe, who was born and brought up in Newcastle, has spent a significant part of his career in Hertfordshire.
He first joined the authority in 1979 as deputy county planning officer after planning posts in West Yorkshire, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire.
Nine years later he left the county to become chief planning officer in Kent but returned in November 1990 to become chief executive.
"This is the only job that could have lured me away from Hertfordshire where I have had the privilege to work with some of the finest public service managers in an authority that has been led by some of the most dynamic politicians in local government today," he said.