Jermaine Wilson ran the streets as a drug dealer, did time on a maximum security prison yard, and now he is the mayor of a major America city. Wilson was sworn in as Leavenworth, Kansas’ top official in early January.
Wilson was unanimously voted into the position by the Commissioners of Leavenworth, the city where he grew-up, and where his previous occupation was the drug trade.
For the drug offenses, he spent three years in prison where he transformed his life through his faith in God and hard studying.
“As human beings we all make mistakes in life. We shouldn’t be bound or identified by the mistakes we’ve made in our life,” Wilson said to San Quentin News. “I wanted to let people know: despite the mistakes you’ve made in your life, you still can become successful.”
One of Wilson’s first orders of business as the mayor was to coordinate a partnership with City Attorney Todd Thompson to tackle a criminal-record expunging project. Wilson had his own record expunged in 2015.
The project was a 60-day event in which the prosecutor’s office and volunteering private attorneys helped qualifying returning citizens with the formalities of clear- ing their criminal records. Both officials and citizens considered the event and project a success.
“They have been given a second chance and received housing and better employment,” Wilson told the SQ News. “People now feel hopeful and feel like they can move forward without having their past preventing them from becoming successful.”
Not everyone qualified for his or her records to be cleared. The participants had to meet the requirements under the regulations of Kansas law and a judge had the final ruling.
With a second chance, Wilson has shown what returning citizens can do. He has been free for close to 12 years. When released in 2007, he started a lawn- care business to support his one-time love and newly-wed wife Jessica Wilson and their children.
In 2015, he started the Unity in the Community Movement, a nonprofit that mentors youth, helps the homeless and works to build better relationships between law enforcement and the community.
“God created us to work,” Wilson told the Kansas City Star. “Nothing comes easy or fast. You have to find your- self. You have to be willing to work.”
And work is what Wilson has done—along with his community work, he went back into the prisons and juvenile faculties to tell his story to prisoners and encourage them to make a change.
Wilson had also served time in a juvenile facility, where he turned a two-year sentence to a four-year stay for an attempted escape charge, according to the Star article. At 15, Wilson started fighting, running the streets and getting into drugs. He eventually was kicked out of school and ran away from home.
“Once you start getting money, of course you start getting power, then you get influence, and now everybody’s leaning on you,”said Wilson in the article.
After being released at the age of 19, he was back in the streets using and selling drugs. This led to his prison term and a chance to get clean and sober. He started to focus on things that mattered to him most — like his eight-month-old son with Jessica.
He prayed to change his heart, and he promised to be- come a more productive person. Then he began to take the right steps on his path to success.
“I just had to continue to study, to prepare myself every single day, knowing that one day I was going to be free,” said Wilson, in the interview with the Star. “And when that time came for me to be free, I was able to apply everything that I had learned while I was in prison.”
That preparation culminated with a round of applause and cheers from a packed meet- ing room as he became the city mayor. He never thought of city leadership until family, friends and the community urged him to get into politics.
Now he is using his voice on behalf of the voiceless in all walks of his constituents’ lives.
“To be able to fulfill a request of a citizen, you know, that moment is priceless,” Wilson told the Star.