Keith St. John

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Keith C. St. John, Esq., Common Council, Albany, New York. Photo by Ron Schlittler.

Keith C. St. John, Esq.

Born August 5, 1957

Common Council Alderman, 2nd Ward

Albany, New York

6,200 constituents

Career Overview

Elected November 1989

Re-elected 1993

Keith St. John feels that his years in public office truly enabled him to make a contribution to his community and offer people of all walks of life a greater chance of being heard and appreciated. That, he believes, is what public service is all about.

Essay by Keith St. John for Out and Elected in the USA

For eight years, I was an Alderman in the City of Albany, New York, representing the city’s Second Ward as a member of the Common Council. I made national history in November 1989 by becoming the first openly gay Black person elected to public office in the United States and, it seems, the world.

I was raised in Westchester County, New York, and received my undergraduate education at Yale College and Vassar College, earning a B.A. in Economics in 1981. My graduate work in Public Policy was at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and Duke University’s Institute of Policy Sciences and Public Affairs. I received my Juris Doctor degree in 1985 from the Cornell Law School.

I started my legal career in Albany in 1985 as a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer at the Legal Aid Society on Northeastern New York. In 1987, I was admitted to practice law before the New York state and federal district courts and, in 1989, became the first associate at Walter, Thayer and Mishler, P.C., concentrating my private law practice in the areas of family law and Social Security disability law. In 1992, I accepted a position at the Albany Law School of Union University as a clinical instructor/staff attorney in its Clinical Legal Studies program. During the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign, I served as a regional coordinator, and as a member of the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee.

I was appointed in 1993 by then Governor Mario M. Cuomo to the Temporary Commission on Constitutional Revision. That same year I received three important awards: the New York Bar Association’s prestigious Root/Stimson Community and Professional Service Award, the Progressive Leadership Award from the Capital District chapter of Citizen Action, and the Victor A. Lord Courage of Conviction Award from Equinox, Inc. The following year I was honored with several other awards including the City of Albany Distinguished Service Award from its Human Rights Commission, and was appointed to the New York State Commission on Uniform State Laws by Governor Cuomo.

Today I am counsel to the New York State Senate Democratic Conference. My specific responsibility is to serve as Counsel to Deputy Minority Leader Davis Paterson, managing legislation on the floor of the Senate. I currently am active in the New York State Bar Association, having served on the organization’s Committee on AIDS and the Law, and the President’s Committee on Access to Justice. I serve as a director of the Fund for Modern Courts, an organization that sponsors research, education, and citizen court monitoring to improve the courts of New York, and am engaged in the private practice of law, concentrating in the areas of family and matrimonial law, and real estate transactions.

Most recently, I was an Albany County public defender, representing individuals involved in custody/visitation disputes, child abuse and neglect, and family offense proceedings, as well as a law guardian appointed by the Appellate Division of the state supreme Court to represent children in delinquency proceedings and custody/visitation matters.

For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at

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