In deciding for whom to vote in an election, it is important to not only consider the candidates’ views on the issues, but also their character and moral integrity. As Saint Thomas More says in the famous play “A Man for All Seasons,” “When statesmen ignore their moral consciences, they send themselves and their countries straight to hell.”

In the Leavenworth Times on Aug. 9, there was a letter by Byron Maduska about Jermaine Wilson, a candidate for the upcoming City Commission election in November 2017. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I am good friends with Mr. Maduska. We disagree on many political issues, but I have always found him to be a caring person and a person of integrity. For example, several summers back, the air conditioning in my apartment broke down right in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures over 100 degrees. I was going to tough it out, but Mr. Maduska told me that to do so would be dangerous. He put me up in his house until I could get and install a new air conditioner. Also, several years back, a young policewoman lost her job unexpectedly. Mr. Maduska checked around several local police departments and called to tell me several that were hiring.

In his letter, Mr. Maduska noted that Mr. Wilson had served time in jail, and asked whether he had the necessary character and values to be on the City Commission. I have worked on issues of crime and violence for more than four decades, and there definitely are some people who have been to prison who should never be allowed to serve in public office. So it was quite legitimate for Mr. Maduska to raise this issue.

However, I have also done prison ministry for 24 years, so I know first-hand some people who have been to prison who have been able to turn their lives around and become productive members of the community. 

In my chosen field of terrorism, we have a saying, “The best counter-terrorist is an ex-terrorist.” In big cities all over the country, police departments have been aided in their fight against gang violence by ex-gang members who have been to prison and, as the saying goes, “got religion.”

In his letter to the Times on Aug. 10, Mr. Wilson answered many of the questions raised by Mr. Maduska’s letter, so I am glad that he wrote this letter. But in talking to people around Leavenworth, a lot of people still have questions. So let me respectfully suggest to Mr. Wilson that some time soon he hold a public forum where he can make his case for why he feels that his past is no barrier to him doing an effective job as city commissioner, and then take questions from the residents of Leavenworth.

My model for such a forum is an event that took place in the 1960 election. John Kennedy, a Catholic, was running for president, and a Catholic had never been president of the United States. Many people were hesitant to vote for Kennedy because of his faith. So Kennedy went before a meeting of Baptist ministers to explain why his faith would not be a barrier to him doing his duties as president. He was quite successful in his efforts, and he went on to win the 1960 election.  

Finally, I want to thank the Leavenworth Times for enabling the city to have a public discussion of this issue. It is never healthy in a democratic society for issues to be discussed in secrecy.

Ernest Evans is a Leavenworth Times columnist.