Liberian Born, former refugee Wilmot Collins is Helena, MT first black mayor

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo

It's been little less than a year now since Wilmot Collins, a former refugee from Liberia became the first black mayor of Helena, the capital of Montana. Collins, 56-year-old, shockingly defeated incumbent mayor James E. Smith who had been mayor for 16 years. Collins won the 2017 mayoral election on November 7, 2017 with 51% of the vote.


As a former refugee, Collins arrived in the United States in 1994. His wife who’s also a Liberian is a registered nurse at VA Montana and an Army Reservist. Their daughter is Active Duty Navy, and their son is a senior at the University of Montana, Missoula. Collins previously worked as a Child Protection Specialist with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, an Adjunct Instructor at the University of Montana, Helena College, and is a a U. S. Navy Reservist. He also worked at VA Montana for many years as an Administrative Officer for Facility Management and as a Public Affairs Specialist and Minority Veterans Program Coordinator. He is active on several boards: United Way of Lewis and Clark Area, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance. He's a graduate of Troy University and University of Liberia. He holds a Master’s degree in Human Resources Management.


Helena's population is 30,102 people. The ethnic composition of the population of Helena is composed of 27,383 White residents (91%), 971 Hispanic residents (3.23%), 706 Native residents (2.35%), 623 Mixed residents (2.07%), and 201 Black residents (0.67%).


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