Liberian-born Wilmot Collins, first black mayor of Montana, launches bid for US Senate

By: Flomo Yarkpawolo

Wilmot Collins, a former refugee from Liberia who became the first black mayor of Helena, the capital of Montana, launched his bit for US Senate seat. On Monday, Collins announced he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Steve Daines.

As a former refugee, Collins arrived in the United States in 1994. During the 2017 mayoral election, Collins, 56-year-old, shockingly defeated incumbent mayor James E. Smith who had been mayor for 16 years. Helena has a population of 30,102 people. The ethnic composition of the city is 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%).

Collins and his wife Maddie moved to Helena in the early 1990s to escape Liberia’s civil war — she with a scholarship to study nursing at Carroll College and he a few years later after going through the refugee process. Prior to assuming office, Collins worked as a child protection officer for the state, and as a teacher and a Veterans Affairs administrator. He has been a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve for 22 years and has completed his doctoral coursework in forensic psychology. His wife, a nurse for the VA, serves in the Army Reserve. His son Bliss graduates from college this year. His daughter is on active duty with the U.S. Navy in the Middle East. “We’re service oriented,” says Collins. “Because this country has given so much to my family and other refugees.”

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