Ex-cop who changed the life of a Kansas City Popeye’s worker plans to run for mayor

Two lives changed one night in late March when Donald Carter used the drive-thru at the Popeye’s at 31st and Prospect.

Since then, Shajuana Mays, the woman working the window, has left her fast-food job and is working on getting admitted to Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley.

And there’s this: Carter, 36, a former Kansas City Police Department detective and married father of two, has decided to run for mayor of Kansas City in 2019.

He broke the news on “The Steve Harvey Show” when he and Mays taped an episode last month that will be shown on Thursday. The show airs at 2 p.m. on ABC.

The last few months have been, in his words, “a wild ride” since Carter’s spur-of-the-moment, random act of kindness raised more than $15,000 to send Mays to nursing school.

He had toyed with the idea of running for political office someday. In the heat of the viral fame that came his way after what he did for Mays, people encouraged him to find a bigger platform for his kindness activism.

“So I’m going to throw caution to the wind and run for mayor in 2019,” he said on Wednesday, promising a “very nontraditional” campaign.

He was at a crossroads in his own life when he met Mays. He had left the Police Department after 10 years and was working with a local tech start-up. He was also active with a community project aimed at connecting people in neighborhoods where they feel disenfranchised from one another.

The national spotlight found him after he acted upon a brief chitchat he and Mays had in the Popeye’s drive-thru. When she told him she wanted to go to nursing school, something that sounded like desperation in her voice spurred him to go home and ask his 1,400 Facebook friends to pitch in for her education.

They, in turn, suggested he set up a GoFundMe page. He called the campaign “Send a Random Girl 2 Nursing School.” To date it has raised more than $15,000, more than twice the stated $7,000 goal.

At the time Carter had been thinking a lot about random acts of kindness. He had just binge-watched “The Kindness Diaries” on Netflix, an inspirational travelogue series about author Leon Logothetis’ trip around the world made possible by strangers and good Samaritans.

Carter wasn’t sure what to expect when he asked people to help Mays.

“I think that’s what happens sometimes. We let fear quench the things we are naturally inclined to do some of the time. So we lose that spark ... like putting out the wick of a candle,” he said in March.

“But what if we didn’t do that? What if we were more open to being kind to each other?”

He spent weeks after the campaign launched talking to media around the country. He was on CNN, “Good Morning America” and countless websites. NBC sent a correspondent from Chicago to interview him at the Popeye’s. His social media “blew up for about six weeks straight,” Carter said.

He was encouraged “seeing people’s response to this one simple thing, one simple story, and seeing people’s hunger for doing good for each other.”

Or, as he says on Twitter, “We really have a lot to gain from just taking care of each other.”

He’s not sure how he landed on Harvey’s radar. He saw that the comedian and talk-show host had shared a story about him on his Facebook page. Then a show producer called inviting him and Mays to a taping in Chicago, which happened in early May.

On the show Harvey surprised Mays with a check for $5,000.

Carter received one of the show’s “Harvey’s Heroes” jackets.

He plans to spend the next two years talking to people across the city “to learn what it takes” to be a good mayor.

Thanks to his viral act of kindness, he’s at least got the name recognition.

Google “Donald Carter,” and he is right there at the top.