Dan Besse was born in North Carolina, son of a U.S. Marine and a public school teacher. He graduated from Hickory High School (1973), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1977), and UNC School of Law (1980).
After most of a decade representing poor families as a legal aid attorney in coastal North Carolina, Dan returned to his native Piedmont and made his home in Winston-Salem. From 2001 through 2020, he represented the Southwest Ward on the Winston-Salem City Council, elected and re-elected as a Democrat to represent his constituents for five terms.
In both his public and private roles, Dan champions strong neighborhoods, good public schools, first-rate police and fire protection, healthy communities, a clean and green environment, equal opportunity for all, good affordable housing, good jobs for working families, and building a welcoming community for all.
As an elected local official, he also made good transportation a special focus, including safe streets, good public transit, and a growing network of safe biking and pedestrian paths, greenways, and sidewalks. He represented the City of Winston-Salem in leadership roles on the urban area Transportation Advisory Committee, the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation, and the National League of Cities.
As an attorney, Dan has focused on the areas of environment and public health, clean energy and utilities, and fair employment, housing, and health care access for working families. He has taught classes in environmental law and policy, and in government, at colleges from N.C State University to Winston-Salem State University and Forsyth Technical Community College. He served for 20 years on state rulemaking boards charged with protection of clean water, air, and land (including the NC Environmental Management Commission and the NC Coastal Resources Commission), by appointments of both a Republican and a Democratic governor.
Dan is married to Daisy Rodriguez, who recently retired as the director of student aid funding for our community foundation. He was blessed to be welcomed into the family by Daisy’s three children and their growing families, who also make their homes in Forsyth County. Nicholas is a professional firefighter, Cynthia a homemaker, and Ariana (a recent graduate of Appalachian State University) is pursuing a career in nutrition and wellness.
In addition to work and family, Dan loves to read and to stay physically active. As an avid runner, he has gotten to know the parks, trails and greenways across our county. He is a passionate advocate for more sidewalks, parks, and trails to provide safe, healthy exercise and the opportunity to enjoy nature for the people of all neighborhoods.