When Jermaine Wilson was elected by his fellow Leavenworth city commissioners to serve as mayor in 2019, it was described as the latest rise in his life since spending years in prison on drug charges.
“I used to sell a lot of drugs out here, right there in apartment 4,” the 31-year-old from Leavenworth, Kansas, was quoted by CBS News.
Right from age 11, he was already into drugs and was in juvenile detention by 15. In 2007, Wilson, who was then 19, was convicted of a felony and spent three years in prison for possession of drugs.
More about this
There, in the maximum-security wing at Lansing Correctional, a state prison in Kansas, Wilson’s life took a dramatic turn. He realized what was at stake in his life.
“If I don’t change, it’s either going to be two things that are going to happen: I’m either going to spend the rest of my life in prison or dead in a casket,” Wilson said.
While behind bars, he became a Christian and decided to speak to people about his story so that they wouldn’t repeat the same mistakes he had made in life.
“Once I got released, I continued to start serving my community.
“The moment that you start to build up people, you build up your community,” he said.
Wilson spoke to churches and juveniles at detention facilities and taught inmates how to write resumes and fill out job applications.
He subsequently established the Unity in the Community program, a nonprofit that targets local youth by providing mentoring, recreational events, and most of all, “unconditional love.”
It also intends to provide jobs,
But the best was yet to come.
In 2017, Wilson ran for city commissioner after his criminal record was expunged. This was after he asked to have his record expunged – sealed, in effect, to anyone but law enforcement or the government, said local media, KCTV News.
After the expungement was granted, a friend urged him to go into politics, first as a city commissioner and now as mayor.
Receiving the votes during the election, Wilson became mayor of Leavenworth in 2019.
“Politics was never on my radar,” he told 41 Action News on January 8, the day he was sworn into office. The father of five believes that his transformation is due to God, education and volunteer work.
“When people hear my story, I want people to know there is hope, that there is another way to go,” he said.
“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.”
Now a mayor, his major aim is to reduce crime, fix blight and improve conditions residents live in, according to reports by local media.
When Wilson presided over his first official city commission meeting, it is reported that scores of people in the community thronged to the City Hall and were excited to see him in action
Wilson has further attributed the current position in his life to “the gift of incarceration.”
“That’s why I’m
“I don’t suggest prison. But one thing I tell you, we all go through a time in our life when we hit rock bottom. When you’re at rock bottom there’s only one other place to go, and that’s up.”