Wilmot Collins

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Wilmot Collins
Wilmot Collins Interviewed by VOA in 2017 (cropped).jpg
40th Mayor of Helena
Assumed office
January 2, 2018
Preceded byJames Smith
Personal details
Born (1963-10-15) October 15, 1963 (age 59)
Monrovia, Liberia
Political partyDemocratic (2019–present)
Other political
Independent (until 2019)[1]
Maddie Muna
(m. 1991)
EducationUniversity of Liberia (BA)
Troy University (MS)

Wilmot Collins (born October 15, 1963) is a Liberian-born American politician serving as the mayor of Helena, Montana.[2] He defeated four-term incumbent mayor James E. Smith in the 2017 mayoral election on November 7, 2017, with 51% of the vote. This victory made him the first black person to be elected the mayor of any city in the history of Montana since statehood was achieved in 1889.[3][note 1]

Early life and background[edit]

Collins fled his native Liberia for Helena in 1994, as a refugee from the First Liberian Civil War.[6] He had petitioned for refugee status to join his wife, who had moved to Montana two years before he did.[4] He subsequently became a United States citizen in 2002, and worked for the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, specializing in child protection.[3]

For over two decades, he was a member of the United States Navy Reserve. Collins has two children with his wife, their daughter, Jaymie and their son, Bliss. Wilmot Collins is first cousins with Helene Cooper, Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times.[7][8]

Political career[edit]

On May 13, 2019, Collins announced his candidacy for United States Senate as a Democrat.[9] He dropped out to endorse governor Steve Bullock on March 9, 2020.[10]

On March 29, 2021, Collins announced his intent to seek re-election as mayor of Helena. In his announcement, Collins listed climate friendly policies for the city, affordable housing and funding of essential services as his core accomplishments during his first term.

Collins won re-election as mayor of Helena on November 2, 2021. He defeated his opponent, Sonda Gaub with 67% of the vote, making him the first black person to win re-election for any office in the state of Montana.

In 2021, Collins spoke in support of resettling Afghan refugees amid the 2021 Taliban offensive on Twitter, stating:[11]

"This former refugee cannot wait to welcome them to Montana. Hopefully they’ll get involved in our communities and enrich our lives with their experiences and culture. Who knows, maybe one day some of them will even run for office!"

Video from Voice of America News pursuant to Collins' election in 2017.


  1. ^ In 1873, pre-statehood Montana elected the first Black mayor of any city in the territory of Montana with the election of E. T. Johnson, a Black barber from Washington, D.C. Johnson's victory occurred before Montana had become a state or Helena had been officially incorporated as a city.[4][5]


  1. ^ Plank, Thomas; Michels, Holly (March 20, 2019). "Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins considering a run for statewide or federal office". Missoulian. Retrieved May 9, 2019. Collins declined to say whether he would run as a Republican or Democrat, adding "I'm exploring as an American."
  2. ^ Plank, Thomas. "Mayor-elect Wilmot Collins keeps focus on Helena as election gets national buzz". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  3. ^ a b "Liberian-American candidate becomes first Black mayor in Montana". NY Daily News. 2017-11-08. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  4. ^ a b McLaughlin, Kathleen (2017-11-09). "Montana's first African-American mayor, once a refugee, says US offered 'second chance'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  5. ^ "Will Helena's Wilmot Collins be Montana's first black mayor? Not exactly, historians say". Helena Independent Record. 2017-11-08. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  6. ^ Fisher, Don (2016-03-14). "Resettled Liberian Civil War refugee shares experiences at Missoula forum". KXLH. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  7. ^ Tackett, Michael; Gabriel, Trip; Eligon, John (2017-11-08). "A Year After Trump, Women and Minorities Give Groundbreaking Wins to Democrats". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-09.
  8. ^ Dopoe, Robin (2017-11-09). "Liberian-American Elected Montana's 'First Black Mayor'". Liberian Observer. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  9. ^ michael.woodel@helenair.com, MICHAEL WOODEL. "Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins announces 2020 bid for US Senate On March 29th, 2021, Collins announced his intent to seek re-election as Mayor of Helena. In his announcement, Collins listed climate friendly policies for the city, affordable housing, and funding of essential services as some of his core accomplishments during his first time". Helena Independent Record. Retrieved 2020-06-11.
  11. ^ "Gianforte, Rosendale split on Afghan resettlement in Montana". Montana Free Press. 2021-09-16. Retrieved 2022-04-15.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by Mayor of Helena