Jason W. Bartlett

Photographed by Tevin Moye.

Jason W. Bartlett was born on April 9, 1966.  He is a respected public servant who has spent many years as an entrepreneur, community activist, political strategist, and a former Connecticut State legislator currently exploring a run for State Senate in Connecticut’s 10th district.

Jason is a native of Middletown, Connecticut who resided in five foster homes before he was adopted. His birth name was Leonard Vargo and he was born at Long Lane, a home for single pregnant teens. As a young child, Jason went by the name “Buddy” until he was about ten when his parents insisted that he be called by his name, Jason William Bartlett.

Jason earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Connecticut. While a student, he joined Zeta Psi Fraternity, and was a member of UCONN’s student government. After his senior year, he decided to run for State Representative from UCONN, in Storrs, Connecticut, but he lost that race. His senior year in college he started a tradition of going to New Hampshire every four years and campaigning for a Presidential candidate.

In 2007, Jason W. Bartlett came out at forty-one, a year after he secured a seat as the Democratic representative for a Connecticut State House of Representatives office.  He served the constituents of the state’s second district, in a jurisdiction that was primarily white and Republican. When he publicly came out, he became the first Black, Gay State Representative that was ‘out’ in the nation and that act propelled his announcement, and Jason himself, onto the national stage. He continued to serve admirably in the Connecticut State House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011, and left after he was unsuccessful in his re-election bid in November of 2010.

In the Connecticut State Legislature, Jason became the go-to man on education reform. His first bill was to change the age to withdraw from school, from 16 to 17 years old.  He was also responsible for several education initiatives that led to historic education reform bills such as creating school governance councils and making it easier to turn around troubled schools.  Jason was also actively involved in issues of expanding insurance coverage to the uninsured and other public health issues.

For over a decade, Jason W. Bartlett owned and operated his own mortgage company as well as a restaurant named ‘Dishes’ in Hartford, Connecticut. He has moved on from his involvement in the mortgage business, and briefly worked for the National Black Justice Coalition, a nation-wide Civil Rights non-profit dedicated to ending racism and homophobia by empowering black lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Jason became the guardian and eventually father of two boys who were the children of his deceased uncle and aunt. He has provided not only the security and love they needed after the loss of both of their parents, but also a nurturing environment that would encourage these young men to pursue their dreams.  Jason is immensely proud of his sons, who are now 32 and 30 years old,  both still living in Danbury, Connecticut.  In fact, Jason is now a grandpa to Gabriel who is 2 years old.

Jason W. Bartlett  most recently was the Director of Youth Services with the City of New Haven. He originally came to New Haven as the campaign manager for Democratic candidate Toni Harp.  Toni became the first woman in 375 years to win and serve as Mayor of New Haven. Jason is credited with having created Youth Stat, a holistic, Citywide wrap-around program for disengaged youth. Youth Stat has engaged over 700 youth a year for the past six years. The program aims to end youth violence, lower suspensions, and expulsions and is credited with enabling historically the lowest crime rates in the City of New Haven in the past fifty years.