Episode 6

Running for Mayor and Treating Civic Engagement like a Healthy Diet with Dustin Daniels.

Dedication; Progress; Vision. These are the words that come to mind for today’s guest. Revisiting her old college stomping grounds, Tiffany Lanier sits down with Dustin Daniels, Tallahassee mayoral candidate to discuss what it means to represent a city that you love, treating civic engagement like a diet, and the importance of local government.

Meet Dustin.

He grew up in an economically depressed area of central Florida, his mother was disabled for the majority of his life, and he experienced his first contact with the criminal justice system at the age of 12. Dustin was lucky enough to have a family who emphasized the importance of education and encouraged him to be better than his surroundings. He became the first person in his family to graduate from high school, attended Florida State University (FSU) where he served as Student Body President, and completed his graduate education at the London School of Economics. He served as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Mayor and Director of Legislative Affairs for the City of Tallahassee for 4 years and currently serves as the youngest teaching faculty member at FSU’s College of Social Science and Public Policy. Before taking his role in local government, Dustin worked as a consultant in international development and corporate social responsibility.

What the F@%k?

Breaking the ice at their alma mater, Tiffany and Dustin discuss their frustration over the lastest pick for the Supreme Court, and CNN’s need to report on Justin Timberlake’s World Cup pick. (Spoiler alert: he was way off.)

First Generation Pride

Dustin takes us back to class and discusses what it meant for him to be a first-generation college student, and how that played a role into how he approached applying to school, and getting involved in issues that mattered to him and other students.

Why Run?

After the 2016 election, like many of us, Dustin questioned the reality of what America claimed to be, feeling disconnected from the nation that he’d grown up knowing. Snapping back out of that haze, Dustin felt even more compelled to participant in city and local government, recognizing the impact these often-overlooked section of government really has to day-to-day lives.

Young and Hungry

At only 29, Dustin recognizes that he would be the youngest mayor in Florida should he win this election, but his age is not a hindrance to his motivation. Despite older people believing that the younger generation doesn’t bring much to the table, Dustin knows that life experience plays a part in understanding and valuing the lives of other people, and putting these issues at the forefront of your work.

The Last Gasp?

Tiffany and Dustin question whether the tension that many of us feel in America today, whether it is between races, religions, sexualities and overall morals, is here for just a moment, or if this toxicity will eventually become the norm and will any of this turmoil result in our country taking a permanent step forward. If now is the time to take that irreversible step towards being better, Dustin says that it is one that will include understanding the importance of local elections.

Dieting and Civic Engagement

For Dustin, keeping up with what is going on in the world is something that we should all feel required to do if we truly care about the success of our democracy. Comparable to the most successful diets, our civic engagements will require a lifestyle change. It’s about the conscious choice we make on a regular basis from local government to national politics.

Words of Wisdom to Future Politicians

Dustin gives his advice to those who want to get into politics, but may be hesitant to entering in to what seems like an intellectual battlefield. Despite the tensions, Dustin urges potential runners not to second-guess what they know about their community, and understanding that the greatest asset to have is knowing the community that you want to represent inside and out.

Uh oh’s and aha’s                                                                                                        

Even though Dustin was challenged by his predecessors to figuratively seek permission before officially throwing himself into the fight for change, he did not let this (or the hardships that come with fundraising) hold back his campaign. Aside from these challenges, Dustin recalls one of his most valuable “Aha” moments was realizing there is still nothing more powerful than a one-on-one conversation.

Define AMV

What is a modern visionary to Dustin? What does it take to be a change maker? His answer includes someone who understands systemic change requires people to think and do things differently, and that larger problems an be effectively attacked at the local level.

Anything Else?

“Surround yourself with people who humble you.”

Favorite Soundbites

  • “When you disengage, things get worse than they are now.” (12:47)
  • “You can either disengage… or you resolve even deeper than you ever have and get back to work.” (15:56)
  • “Lived experience is extremely important…because it informs the prioritizes that you, as a public official, hold dear.” (22:46)
  • “To make it work you have to be your own biggest believer.” (24:07)
  • “The covert is now the overt.”
  • “Nobody said democracy is going to be easy. It’s a contact sport. It’s the absolute worst form of government in the world, expect for all the others.” (31:54)
  • “Take what you know and build on it.” (39:18)
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Dustin’s Bio:

Dustin Daniels is a candidate for Tallahassee Mayor, focused on building a 21st Century City that works for everyone. 

He grew up in an economically depressed area of central Florida, his mother was disabled for the majority of his life, and he experienced his first contact with the criminal justice system at the age of 12. Dustin was lucky enough to have a family who emphasized the importance of education and encouraged him to be better than his surroundings. He became the first person in his family to graduate from high school, attended Florida State University (FSU) where he served as Student Body President, and completed his graduate education at the London School of Economics. He served as Chief of Staff to the Office of the Mayor and Director of Legislative Affairs for the City of Tallahassee for 4 years, and currently serves as the youngest teaching faculty member at FSU’s College of Social Science and Public Policy. Before taking his role in local government, Dustin worked as a consultant in international development and corporate social responsibility. 

Find Dustin On:

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