Jay Fisette

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Jay Fisette
Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette (4251359719).jpg
Chair of the Arlington County Board
In office
January 1998 – December 2017
Preceded by Ellen M. Bozman
Succeeded by Erik Gutshall
Personal details
Born Gerald N. Fisette, Jr.
(1956-02-25) February 25, 1956 (age 62)[1]
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bob Rosen
Residence Arlington County, Virginia
Alma mater Bucknell University
University of Pittsburgh
Profession Politician
Website fisette.org

Gerald N. "Jay" Fisette Jr. (born February 25, 1956) is an American politician in Arlington County, Virginia. He became the state's first openly gay elected official when he was elected to the five-person Arlington County Board in 1997. Fisette won four reelections and served as the County Board Chair in 2001, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2017, his last year in office. He is a member of the Democratic Party. Fisette previously worked for the federal government and at a local nonprofit health center.

Early life[edit]

Fisette received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Bucknell University in 1978.[2] Fisette said he chose that field of study because he "learned that government was a force for good, and public service was a noble profession." Following his graduation, he spent 18 months in San Francisco, a time where he accepted his identity as a gay man. According to Fisette, "It was here, in the recent aftermath of Harvey Milk's death that I started to recognize the importance of having openly gay men and lesbians in elected office."[1] He then attended the University of Pittsburgh where he received his Master of Arts degree in Public and International Affairs in 1983.[2]


After graduating Fisette moved to Arlington where he began work as an auditor for the General Accounting Office. From 1988-1989, he worked as a staff consultant for the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.[3] During the late 1980s, he became involved with the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local LGBT rights organization.[1] From 1990 to 1998, Fisette served as the director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia, a non-profit community health center that specialized in HIV/AIDS care.[2]

In 1993, Fisette ran for a seat on Arlington County's Board after Democratic board member William T. Newman Jr. resigned to become a circuit court judge.[4] In March of that year he defeated three other candidates in the Democratic primary, thanks to support from national gay rights groups, including the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, and Representative Barney Frank, a gay member of Congress.[5][6] The following month Fisette lost to Benjamin Winslow, an independent candidate endorsed by Republicans, in the special election by 206 votes.[5][7] Four years later in 1997 Fisette decided to run again after County Board chair Ellen M. Bozman chose not run for reelection.[8] He ran as a "social progressive and fiscal conservative" who would "hold down taxes, attract new jobs and protect the suburb's diverse neighborhoods." He downplayed the importance of his sexual orientation by saying "I am clearly a proud gay man, but that's not all I am." He ultimately won the election that November, becoming the first openly gay elected official in Virginia. His win was applauded by national LGBT activists and he became one of a dozen gay and lesbian candidates who won elections throughout the country that November.[9][10]

2014 Arlington County Board. From left to right: J. Walter Tejada, John Vihstadt, Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey.

In 2001, Fisette became chair of the County Board, his first of five terms in the rotating position.[2] Under his leadership that year, the county's emergency response was praised following the September 11 attacks on The Pentagon.[11] He won reelection that November, easily defeating Republican candidate Michael W. Clancy.[7] In August 2003, Fisette announced he would challenge Representative Jim Moran for Virginia's 8th congressional district seat, saying he had experience in education, homeland security, and housing issues.[11] Fisette withdrew from the race less than two weeks later.[12] He ran unopposed for the County Board in 2005, and in 2009, easily defeated Green Party candidate John G. Reeder. Four years later, he defeated another Green Party candidate, Audrey R. Clement, in the 2013 election.[7] When Moran announced his retirement from Congress in 2014, Fisette was one of the names mentioned as a possible replacement.[13] He declined to run though, citing "the contrast between the dysfunctional climate on Capitol Hill and the can-do atmosphere in Arlington" as the main reason.[14] Fisette declined to run for reelection in 2017 citing the desire for a career change and "embracing and advancing a set of progressive values that are so important to me, values we have championed here in Arlington that are threatened by the [Trump] administration." He is the second-longest-serving board member in the county's history.[15]

During his tenure, Fisette cited environmental sustainability and a balanced budget as two of his main priorities.[16] Environmental issues which he advocated for included addressing climate change, phasing-out plastic bags, and encouraging people to no longer buy single use plastic water bottles.[17][18][19] He also played a large role in establishing the Capital Bikeshare program.[20] He was named 2013's "Best Elected Official" by Arlington Magazine.[21]

Electoral history[edit]

Arlington County Board: Results 1993–2013[7]
Year Subject Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes % Opponent Party Votes %
1993 Jay Fisette Democratic 9.143 49.4 B.H. "Ben" Winslow, Jr. Independent 9,349 50.6
1997 Jay Fisette Democratic 29,127 61.9 Amy M. Jones-Baskaran Independent 17,906 38.0 Write-in 31 >0.1
2001 Jay Fisette Democratic 30,214 60.8 Michael W. Clancy Republican 19,293 38.9 Write-in 57 >0.1
2005 Jay Fisette Democratic 43,978 97.4 Write-in 1,196 2.6
2009 Jay Fisette Democratic 31,333 66.3 John G. Reeder Green 14,970 31.7 Write-in 975 2.1
2013 Jay Fisette Democratic 38,213 66.3 Audrey R. Clement Green 17,916 31.1 Write-in 1,482 2.6

Personal life[edit]

Fisette is married to Bob Rosen, author of The New York Times best seller Grounded and clinical psychologist who founded Healthy Companies International. They were married on their 30th anniversary on September 17, 2013, at All Souls Church, Unitarian in Washington, D.C. The couple chose to marry following the Internal Revenue Service's announcement that same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions where it was legal would be recognized for federal tax purposes, no matter where the couple lived.[22] After the wedding, Fisette stated: "The world is changing. If you would have asked us 15 years ago if we would ever have the opportunity to get married, we would have said, 'Not in our lifetime.'" Less than one year after their wedding same-sex marriage in Virginia was legalized.[23] The couple have lived in Arlington's Ashton Heights neighborhood since 1987.[2] In April 2011, their front yard was featured in a three-page article, titled "Front Yard Face-lift", in Southern Living magazine.[24]

Fisette is a member of several organizations, including the Arlington Committee of 100, Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, Ashton Heights Civic Association, Equality Virginia, Leadership Greater Washington, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "Jay Fisette, Virginia, 1997". OutHistory. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Jay Fisette - Vice-Chair, Arlington County Board". County Board: Members. Arlingtonva.us. Retrieved January 11, 2016. 
  3. ^ "About Jay". Fisette for Arlington. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  4. ^ Hall, Charles W. (March 21, 1993). "Gay Man Is Winner In Primary: Turnout Is Heavy In Arlington Vote". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ a b "Gay candidate wins primary". The Free Lance-Star. Associated Press. March 23, 1993. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  6. ^ Hall, Charles W. (March 19, 1993). "Gay Arlington Candidate Seeks to Set Mark in Area; National Group Backing Board Race by Fisette". The Washington Post. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Arlington County Election Results" (PDF). Arlington County Electoral Board. Retrieved December 11, 2014. [permanent dead link]
  8. ^ Lipton, Eric (March 6, 1997). "Arlington Board Chairman Says She Won't Seek 7th Term". The Washington Post. 
  9. ^ Eggen, Dan (November 6, 1997). "A Victory Cast in the `Arlington Way': Gay Board Member-Elect Says Government, Not His Orientation, Is the Issue". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ "Swept into office: Gays post Election Day wins from coast to coast". The Advocate (748): 16. December 9, 1997. ISSN 0001-8996. 
  11. ^ a b Barakat, Matthew (August 6, 2003). "Arlington's Fisette to challenge Moran for seat". The Free Lance–Star. Associated Press. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Across the Nation". The Advocate (899): 15. September 30, 2003. ISSN 0001-8996. 
  13. ^ Chibarro Jr., Lou (January 21, 2014). "Ebbin, Fisette on 'short list' for U.S. House seat in Northern Va". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  14. ^ Pershing, Ben; Sullivan, Patricia (January 22, 2014). "Patrick Hope in, Jay Fisette out as field takes shape for James Moran's House seat". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  15. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (February 22, 2017). "Arlington board chair Jay Fisette will not run for reelection". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 14, 2017. 
  16. ^ Krouse, Sarah (January 4, 2010). "Jay Fisette elected chair of Arlington County Board". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  17. ^ Fisette, Jay (August 22, 2014). "Why Arlington joined the battle against climate change". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  18. ^ Rothstein, Ethan (March 11, 2014). "Fisette to Speak at Anti-Plastic Bag Event". ARLnow. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  19. ^ Doren, Jenny (January 7, 2013). "Jay Fisette launches crusade to 'think outside the bottle'". WJLA-TV. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  20. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (December 17, 2013). "Jay Fisette to be named chairman of Arlington Board". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Best of Arlington 2013: Best Elected Official". Arlington Magazine. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  22. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (October 3, 2013). "Newly wed Arlington official Fisette buoyed by challenge to same-sex marriage amendment". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  23. ^ Chibbaro Jr., Lou (September 25, 2013). "Fisette weds on 30th anniversary". Washington Blade. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 
  24. ^ "County Board Member's Yard Featured in 'Southern Living'". ARLnow. May 6, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2014. 

External links[edit]