Former Liberian Refugee Elected Mayor in Montana

A Liberian taking refuge in America has been elected mayor of the city of Helena in the state of Montana.

Wilmot Collins settled with his family in Montana from Ghana, four years after they escaped the 1990 Liberian civil war.
Before his election, the 54-year-old Collins worked for the State’s Department of Health and Human Services, while his wife, Maddie Collins, is a registered nurse.

According to Public Radio International, Collins has been working in the past to make Montana a more welcoming state for refugees.

During his campaign for the mayor office last year, he sought to inspire many about his story, letting them to know that even refugees can have something to offer. Collins encouraged new refugees to see the state as generally receptive, despite earlier experiences of resentments.

“I will tell them that you have to have thick skin. There will be people that will say things that aren’t true about you,” he told PRI.

“But there are more decent people in this state than there are bigots. There are more decent people in this state than there are racists.”

He promised to bring to the office new minds and perspectives, and the needed to tackle the issues affecting the city.

“As mayor, I want to focus on affordable housing, teenage homelessness, and vacancies and funding gaps in providers of essential services, such as our police and fire departments,” he also promised.

While Collins is not the first Liberian American to become mayor in the U.S. – Paye Flomo holds that title for becoming mayor of a town of 800 people in 2008 – he is considered to be the first black mayor in the state of Montana.

As a child protection specialist, Collins has served the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, the U.S. Army, the Department of Homeland Security, United Nations Refugee Congress Advisory Council, and Montana Human Rights Network, among others.

Featured photo courtesy of Wilmot Collins for Mayor/Facebook

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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