African politics are often said to be dominated by ethnic divides, with the ensuing policies implemented by leaders being based almost exclusively on their ethnic power base. In this paper, we demonstrate that the village of origin of democratically-elected leaders matters for the attribution of development projects in the context of one of the largest Community-Driven Development (CDD) programs in Senegal. After showing that leadership matters, we consider those factors that determine who is elected president (and vice-president) of a Conseil rural, the smallest administrative unit in Senegal. We also consider the link between power in the Conseil rural and that in the Conseil de Concertation et de Gestion (CCG), an assembly coopted by the Conseil rural president that is typical of local institutions set up in the context of CDD programs, and which is responsible for the participative identification of the development projects that constitute the priorities of villagers. Using a unique dataset, we show that ethnicity plays almost no role in determining who becomes president (or vice-president) of a Conseil rural, while party politics, age, political experience, village loyalty, and educational and professional qualifications do. Our findings highlight the crucial importance, in terms of development policy, of the local political institutions that are often reinforced or created alongside CDD programs.