N.C. House of Representatives District 15 candidates were sent questionnaires by The Daily News in advance of the Nov. 6 mid-term election. The profiles run on JDNews.com in their entirety and unedited. Two candidates are running for one open seat. An * denotes incumbent. One-stop voting begins Oct. 17 and Election Day is Nov. 6.

Name: Dan Whitten

City of birth: Jacksonville, NC

Seeking: NC House District 15

Affiliation: Democrat

Incumbent: Phil Shepard

Best way for voters to contact you: info@danfornc.com or facebook.com/danwhittenNC

Why are you running for this office? We have hundreds of children who are homeless in our school system, suicide is Onslow’s 5th leading cause of death, we are 12th in the nation for heroin overdose, food disparity is on the rise, coastal businesses and residents are threatened by the possibility of oil drilling on our coast, we need criminal justice reforms now more than ever – our community and state are faced with serious issues. I’m running because I want the opportunity to authentically dive into the root causes of the issues we face and do all I can to forge real solutions. I’m running to bring proactive vs. reactive policy solutions, and to bring balance back to the conversation of public policy problem solving.

What makes you a good candidate? My community has helped me learn and grow academically, professionally, and spiritually and I just want to give back by putting all of the things I’ve learned to work to solve real issues we all face. As a progressive, hard-working member of our community, I care more about the people in my community than I do political or partisan agendas, and I have no desire to become a career politician. I believe that both sides of the political aisle have something to contribute in forging common sense public policy solutions if we work together. I work by addressing the root causes of issues so we can solve it and prevent issues down the road. Public policy should be proactive and not reactive and I will bring that mindset to Raleigh.

What is the biggest issue Eastern North Carolina faces? ENC faces many important issues. Our criminal justice system needs to be reformed to allow more successes and holistic rehabilitation. Our public schools need to be reformed to allow more teaching and less testing, as well as to close any and all gaps to include how we value our educators. We need to boldly address addiction and mental health, topics that have been brushed under the run for far too long. We do not need oil drilling along our coast as there are better ways to be a more energy- independent country and the risks to our coastal businesses and residents are far too great. We must directly address the root causes of any and all issues our communities face.

How will you address the challenges facing teachers in our state? I want to trash standardized testing and find a better way to assess the academic progress of our students and schools. There’s too much testing and not enough learning. I also want to free up our classrooms by providing more support staff such as school counselors, teacher assistants, and Exceptional Needs educators, and by getting all politics out of our schools. An autistic child who needs one-on-one education should not be tossed into a normal classroom of 29 or so students. Partisan and special interests have way too many hands in the cookie jar and it’s time for that to end. Our classrooms are not political playgrounds.

If elected, what would you do to stay transparent as an elected official? Transparency and citizen involvement are long passions of mine. I will hold semi-monthly or quarterly town hall events for the citizens of the community where I can present what I’m doing in Raleigh, and where citizens can ask me questions and give me feedback on issues and solutions.

I also want to bring case management of constituent services for citizens of the District. Much of my work in the community has been connecting people to programs, resources, and services, as well as building cooperatives and relationships within our community. I’d like to keep an active role in serving the District through constituent case management.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you? I have a Bachelors degree in Behavioral Sciences with a focus on Public Policy & Administration. From experiencing homelessness to starting successful businesses and non-profits, I come with a dynamic range of out-of-the-box ideas to solve community and state issues. I don’t care about the D, R, or U next to someone’s name. I’ll work with anyone who will sit at the same table, break bread, roll up their sleeves, and work together to proactively solve the many issues our community and state face now and in the future. I ask for the opportunity to work for all of the citizens of my hometown community and ask for your vote – God bless!