Liberian refugee elected mayor of Montana capital
Wilmot Collins, a refugee from Liberia, was elected mayor of Helena, Mont., on Tuesday, beating incumbent candidate Jim Smith.
Collins arrived in Montana’s capital city 23 years ago. The Montana Historical Society says he is likely the city’s first black mayor since 1874, when a barber named Edward W. Johnson was elected, The Associated Press reported.
Collins built his campaign on a message of acceptance, telling new refugees that Montana is a welcoming place, though they’ll need “thick skin,” according to Public Radio International.
“There are more decent people in this state than there are racists,” Collins told the news outlet.
According to the 2010 census, Helena has an African-American population of less than 1 percent.
Collins, 52, a member of the Naval Reserves who works for the Department of Health and Human Services, ran on a progressive platform in the nonpartisan elections.