Going Back To Where He Started

Dante Pittman stands with hand on hips with Whirligig Park in the background

Back in his hometown of Wilson, North Carolina, Dante Pittman ’18 is giving back to the state in two ways: as an officer in the North Carolina National Guard and as human relations director for the City of Wilson.

Pittman was a member of the first cohort of Lead for North Carolina (LFNC) Fellows. The UNC School of Government program recruits, trains and places the state’s most promising young leaders in paid local government fellowships to cultivate a new generation of public service leaders. LFNC Fellows have secured more than $67 million in grant funding to advance key initiatives in the communities where they work throughout the state.

“Our generation wants to have a tremendous impact in our communities,” Pittman told CBS This Morning in 2021, when it featured Lead for America, the national version of the North Carolina program. “In my opinion, the best way to do that is to go back where you started.”

Growing up in Wilson, Pittman always knew he wanted to go to Carolina. Once on campus, he followed his interests in law, government and politics, soaking up as much as he could. “Carolina provided me an opportunity to study and learn about government at the state and local level; I have been captivated by it ever since,” he said. “There is just something special about being so close to the work that has the most direct impact.”

Dante Pittman greets community members at Festival De Verano at Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park

Pittman greets community members at Festival De Verano at Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

After graduation, Pittman became an aide to the North Carolina attorney general. He was working there when he heard of the LFNC program. “LFNC provided a unique opportunity,” he said. “The opportunity to return home to work in local government was the only one that I would have taken. Getting the opportunity to go home and work to make things better is something that I have always been interested in. The thing about local government is that most of the positions do not get a lot of exposure to students, high school or college. What makes LFNC such a critical organization is that it shows students opportunities where they can be change-makers in their communities.”

The City of Wilson hired Pittman after he completed his fellowship. His position as human relations director requires attention to details, such as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as diplomacy, such as bringing various groups in Wilson together. “Every day is different,” he told the Wilson Education Partnership in an interview.

On one late summer day in 2022, his schedule included final preparations for National Night Out; attending a meeting of the Board of Social Services of Wilson County (he is vice chair) to connect the city with the county’s efforts to combat predatory housing; planning for a meeting of the Wilson Police Department’s SummerFest, a community building event; and supervising a new LFNC Fellow.

Amid all that, Pittman said, without question the aspect of his job he enjoys most is serving the community that raised him.

“It’s impactful to be able to serve any community, but when it’s your neighbors, family and friends, and you get to serve them and they’re able to cheer you on the whole way, that’s just special,” he said.

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