A former inmate has made the turnaround of a lifetime in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Jermaine Wilson has been appointed the mayor of the largest city in Leavenworth County, and his journey to being in charge is far from typical.
“Politics was never on my radar,” he told on 41 Action News on Jan. 8, the day he was sworn into office.
In 2007, then-19-year-old Wilson was convicted of a felony and spent three years in prison for possession of drugs. After serving three years at Lansing Correctional Facility, he continued to share his testimony.
“Once I got released, I continued to start serving my community. … I wanted individuals to know that you don’t have to choose this fast way of living,” he explains. “The moment that you start to build up people, you build up your community.”
After becoming a Christian while behind bars, he used his newfound freedom to spend time speaking at churches and talking to juveniles at detention facilities. He also gave inmates lessons on how to write résumés and fill out job applications and launched the Unity in the Community program, a nonprofit that targets local youth by providing mentoring, recreational events, and “unconditional love,” according to the website. It also aims to provide jobs, feed the homeless and forge a bond between police and the community.
Wilson, who was elected city commissioner in 2017 after his record was expunged, has several goals he wants to accomplish as the mayor. They include lowering crime, fixing issues that damage the community and bettering residents’ living conditions.
“You’ve seen a person come to the other side, who is making a difference, who learned from his mistakes, wants to give back, help the community, prevent crime, let people know that there is another way,” the mayor said. “And I want people to see my story and know that there is hope.”
Wilson has already had his first official meeting proceeding as mayor. Just a day after he was sworn in, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, he and Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson promoted the prosecutor’s plan to help qualified former inmates get their criminal records expunged, much like Wilson’s own in 2015, according to The Kansas City Star, giving others a chance to put their mistakes behind them just as he did.