PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — A convicted felon, who overcame drug addiction and became the mayor of Bangor, was honored by a Michigan Supreme Court Justice for his recovery.
Mayor Darren Williams received a proclamation Friday on behalf of the court from Justice Elizabeth Clement.
Williams spoke at the graduation for two women from the Van Buren County Swift and Sure Sanctions Probation Program.
“You can succeed, even though you’re a recovering drug addict,” Williams said. “You still can succeed in life and be prosperous.”
The voluntary program provides a strong structure of accountability with counseling and additional testing to make sure participants remain clean. He graduated from the program in 2016.
Williams started his own business and was elected mayor in May.
“I am incredibly passionate about these courts because they save lives,” Clement said.
The mayor shared his story in the hope it will help others seek treatment. He has lost seven loved ones to drug addiction, including his brother and a nephew.
He credits the program for turning his life around after seeing how the addiction affected him and the lives of the people he loved.
“Being in and out of jail. Being in the treatment centers. Lost custody of three of my kids,” Williams said. “(It) Took a big toll on me and my middle child committed suicide.”
Police Chief Tommy Simpson was friends with Williams from an early age. He says these programs really make a difference.
“Instead of prosecuting you, putting you in jail and you getting out and going back to it — they try to rehabilitate you,” Simpson said. “They try to offer you the resources to keep you out of jail but also to save your life.”
Mayor Pro Tem Lynne Farmer taught Williams in the first grade. She says some people were leery of supporting a recovering addict for mayor.
“I said, ‘I think it’s time to give him a second chance because he has completely turned his life around,’” Farmer said.
Van Buren County judges hope more addicts will complete the program.