John Ehret: Germany’s First Elected Black Mayor

John Ehret, a black German who used to work for the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, became Germany’s first elected black mayor earlier this month.

The 40-year-old Ehret, whose father was an African-American soldier and mother a native German, is the mayor of the village of Mauer near Heidelberg in southern Germany.

Despite almost no campaigning, he picked up slightly more than 58 percent of the vote, beating out a civil servant in the village of about 4,000 residents. Observers said Ehret profited from a so-called “Obama” effect, though the trained police inspector didn’t seek the comparison.

The only thing he knows about his American father is that he was stationed as a US soldier in Karlsruhe. His mother suffered a brain tumor when he was a toddler and gave him up to a children’s home at the age of two.

At six he was adopted by the Ehret family from Mauer.  The Ehret family raised him as a ‘typical’ German child and John was the village’s only black resident  and he became a star in the village.  He was known as Pelé, after the Brazilian legend, at the club where he played football.  John’s adopted father was a respected Social Democratic Party member on the local council.

Ehret says his skin color was never an issue – either in Germany or in the many places he’s travelled to as a member of the BKA, where he was its first black employee.  His employer even once sent him to observe a neo-Nazi concert, apparently unconcerned about his skin color.

Ehret was sent abroad many times, including on several United Nations missions. He served as an investigator into attacks in Lebanon, as a mentor in Sarajevo to help expand the village’s finance office and as an advisor to help rebuild Afghanistan’s police force. He is trained in civil service administration.

But deep down he was a boy from Mauer, so when he saw that the mayor’s job was vacant, because the previous mayor took a post elsewhere, he applied for the job.

While Ehret’s election is an incredible advance for him personally and likely an excellent selection for the town’s residents, he is unlikely to have a larger impact on black Germans due to demographics, culture and of course his personal attitude.

Ehret, who insists he’s never experienced discrimination in Germany, is now in an odd position in which black Germans want him to be an example to others. But he’s not interested in that role.

“For that I feel I’m too German,” he said.


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