Embodying the viewpoints of Connecticut’s diverse second district, which consists of parts of Bethel, Danbury and even his hometown of Redding, Representative Jason Bartlett, the country’s first and only openly gay black state legislator, is one politician for the record books.
Adopted when he was two years old, Bartlett grew up with his two parents and his younger brother.
“I had a pretty good childhood. My mom is from Stanford and my dad is from down south,” Bartlett said. The neighborhood of Redding was “a safe environment and had a good educational system,” so it seemed like the ideal place to establish some roots.
Bartlett’s interest in politics became an early staple in his life. As a child, Bartlett stayed up late and watched the Presidential addresses until one o’clock in the morning.
He has watched every one since then.
As a youngster, he attempted to get the most of Connecticut’s educational system. He exhibited both brains and brawn by becoming involved in his school academic and athletic clubs. He received his first taste of actually being in the government when he was elected as the class representative of the fifth grade in the school’s student council.
“I was a school leader and an athlete. I tried to get the most out of school,” Bartlett said. He flexed his muscles and gave the fifth graders what they really wanted, a school dance.
This forced the feisty Bartlett into action. Circulating a petition and presenting it to his Principal, he fought to have a dance for his fellow fifth and sixth grade classmates. Rejected again, Bartlett decided to go over the Principal’s head and have a dance of their own. With a fee of $25, he was able to rent a bus and a church hall. With parents as chaperones, they were able to have their dance. Because of his dedication and persistence, his former middle school now has a dance for each grade.
He later became the President of his fellow eighth grade students.
Bartlett also had a hobby of reading the Editorial section of national newspapers as a child. He was an avid learner and wanted to keep up with current events. One columnist that caught Bartlett’s eye was the late Carl Rowan. Rowan was an American public servant, journalist and author. Rowan was a nationally syndicated op-ed columnist for the Washington Post and the Chicago Sun-Times and was one of the most prominent black journalists of the 20th century.
Bartlett attended and graduated from Redding High School, one of the top five high schools in Connecticut. Bartlett was also Student Council President of his high school class.
After Bartlett earned his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Connecticut, he used his credentials to be a campaign strategist, formulating policies, writing speeches and being a campaign manager for other politicians. Being so close to the action was one of the many reasons why Bartlett decided to throw his hat into the race.
“The community that is in that district was really my home and I just felt that it was my time to offer myself as a candidate because I thought that I could work hard to make a difference,” Bartlett said. “At the time, I really felt that I was the best candidate and that I was ready to make a difference in people lives.”
Not only is Bartlett a politician, but he is also someone who two young men call Dad. Bartlett adopted the two after their biological parents, Bartlett’s uncle and aunt passed away. Both of his sons, Sam and Kie, are currently enrolled in community college in Connecticut and Sam has enlisted as a Reservist in the US Army.
“My sons are a little older. They are doing their own things now. When I campaigned in 2002 and 2004, I got my kids to campaign with me. They went door to door to help the campaign, so that was fun,” Bartlett said. It was difficult adjust for him to add two new people in his life.
In an attempt to spend quality time and bond with his sons, Bartlett volunteered to coach their youth basketball team. “I have never played basketball in my life, to tell you the truth,” said Bartlett. Bartlett was, at that time, in a relationship with someone who knew a thing or two about the sport. “My ex was the star basketball player in both high school and college. He was really good. I did three years of coaching and I just put in a lot of time when it came to doing stuff with the kids,” Bartlett said. This enabled him to ensure that his children were well-rounded, social and able to have stability in their lives.
As the saying goes, if at first you do not succeed, try, try again. This saying rings truth for a lot of people. This was possibly the inspiration behind Representative Jason Bartlett’s drive to obtaining success. Bartlett ran for his seat twice, in 2002 and 2004, before winning in 2006 and assuming office in 2007. Since being elected, he has attempted to bring to light awareness of chronic Lyme disease and tackled gay issues in the African-American community but his primary focus after obtaining office has been education reform.
“It is what I have been the most [vocal] on,” Bartlett said. “It is important that every child, of every color, has the same opportunities that I had.” Education is Bartlett’s number one solution to help everyone survive and thrive in the world. His attitude has not changed on the issues and with a new election season approaching quickly, Bartlett is not ready to throw in the towel yet and with good reason.
Recently, the House passed the new achievement gap bill. This bill gives parents the power and ability to voice concerns in the educational system of every failing school through school governance councils in the state of Connecticut. “This makes my entire legislative career worth it,” Bartlett said.
“Even though we are in a short session, I plan on addressing several important issues. I will be fighting for improving the way the State Medical Examining Board reviews doctor disciplinary cases; creating a clear pathway that aspiring nurse educators can take in order to advance their careers; and advocating for Ann’s Place, a cancer support and resource center, to receive the money that was allocated for them to finish the construction of their new facility,” Bartlett said from his upcoming campaign for the new voting session. “As I continue to advocate for you in Hartford, I ask that you please contact me with your questions and concerns so that we can continue to improve our state and community. As always, thank you for allowing me the honor to serve you.”