The Mayor of Leavenworth, KS: From prison walls to City Hall

Rebecca Crockett
August 21, 2019 - 4:00 am

Jermaine Wilson


Leavenworth, KS - Jermaine Wilson is more than half-way through his first year as mayor of Leavenworth, and nothing about him seems the typical politician.

He's been called the "People's Mayor," having humble beginnings that people can relate to, and his story is an inspiration to many. Wilson's parents both overcame a past of addiction and poverty with a strong Faith, but he didn't learn from his parents mistakes. He had to learn on his own. 

Wilson saw another lifestyle that seemed more appealing, "My cousins used to come around showing off their jewelry, money, their woman, and nice fancy cars. That seemed appealing to us rather than going to church all the time and being made to go," explains Wilson. 

He started using drugs at 11, breaking and entering charges at 12, and his goal was to be the greatest drug dealer of all time. He was quickly gaining that reputation, and in the midst of it, found out he was going to be a father.  

"I had a son in the process, wasn't ready to be a father, didn't want to be a father. I neglected my responsibilities," says Wilson.

He was so high one day, that he couldn't respond to his son's need to be held, and despite his girlfriends warning not to leave the house that day, he walked out the door high. Police were waiting for him, and he found himself in prison, broken down, and all the friends he thought he had were gone.

Wilson explains, "I had nothing. The only thing I had worth living for was my son. I just knew that if I didn't change my life, I was going to spend the rest of my life in prison or in the grave."

He says God had to break him down to get his attention. He found inspiration through reading the Bible. He said he was just a drug dealer, so if God could use a murderer in the Bible, then surly God could use him. 

While in prison he took college classes, read self-help books, and even attended fatherhood classes. When he was released, Wilson began serving his community and eventually founded an organization called the Unity in the Community Movement, aimed at dispelling racial tensions in the community. 

"That's when people started asking me if I'd ever thought about getting involved in politics. I was like, Nah, man, that's the Devil's playground. I don't do politics," says Wilson. 

But after much prayer, Wilson agreed to run, got his record expunged, and campaigned against people that, on paper, had more qualifications than he did. Having received the most votes, in January of this year, he became the Mayor of Leavenworth Kansas.

He says, "You never know what you are until you experience what you're not," and he's spreading that message to everyone he meets.

"Don't allow your past to define who you are. As long as there's breath in your body, you have hope, another chance to make a difference, to do things the right way," encourages Wilson.

Wilson started a program to help ex-offenders get their record expunged, making it easier to find jobs and be more productive citizens. The program prevents the disclosure of information about the arrests or convictions, with some exceptions.

He'd like to help people who feel they aren't being heard, fix blight in the city, and improve living conditions. 

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