BENNINGTON — The chairman of Bennington's Democratic Party committee is seeking the nomination for one of the two Bennington 2-1 district seats in the Vermont House this August.
Dane Whitman, 25, who was elected to the town Democratic Party committee in November, announced his candidacy on Friday.
The Bennington 2-1 seats are currently held by fellow Democrats Timothy Corcoran II and Chris Bates.
In an interview Friday, Whitman said his desire to become a state legislator aligns with his mission to make a difference for the greater good.
The Bennington College alumnus said he started a business last year, Grey Oak Landscaping and Garden Design, so he could "make a living by planting trees and lending a hand." With Vermont having a "farmer's legislature," Whitman said he can become a voice for Benningtonians in the state capital when his business slows down during the winter season.
The North Bennington resident intends to focus on initiatives that combine "societal benefits with economic returns on investment," such as workforce development.
He wants to attract younger people to Vermont, as well as strengthen the existing talent pool by tackling poverty, food and housing insecurity, and addiction recovery. He believes early childhood education is an important component in building the state's future.
"Without the next generation of skilled workers, how can we move forward the state’s goals of a more environmentally friendly economy?" Whitman said. "We need a responsive legislature that is able to adapt to a changing world. Through an active and engaged democracy, and thoughtful hard-working leadership, we can transform Bennington’s challenges into opportunities."
This is the second time Whitman has run for public office. He was elected on Tuesday as a write-in candidate to the board of the Southwestern Vermont Career Development Center.
Born and raised in Ventura County, Calif., Whitman moved here in 2012 to attend Bennington College's Center for the Advancement of Public Action. His studies focused on land use, food systems and environmental justice.
He graduated in 2016, and decided to stay in Bennington after seeing the town's potential as a place where he can build a life.
To those who might question his qualification given his age, Whitman said: "I have stepped into a lot of new fields, and I'm confident in my ability to learn new skills and pull from the experiences of others."
His own experience, Whitman said, includes working in the fields of construction administration, sustainable agriculture, as well as performing inspection and homeowner outreach for the PFOA Waterline Remediation Project. The latter provided him with insight into how to advocate for Bennington residents and "the dangers of prioritizing profits before people."
He intends to run a positive campaign leading up to the Aug. 11 state primaries. Since summer is the peak season for his business, Whitman said he plans to use his evenings and weekends to meet local residents and learn what issues are most important to them.
"If somebody is open to speaking with me, I want to hear from them," he said. "The best way a representative can perform their responsibilities is by staying connected to their community."
Whitman said he has campaign events being planned and details will be posted on his campaign Facebook page, Dane for Bennington, and a website that's still under construction.
Whitman, who is single and has no children, is a member of the Shires Young Professionals Advisory Board. He also serves as choir director for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington.
Contact Tiffany Tan at email@example.com, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.