Jordan Letschert pursues many causes and owns many accomplishments, and he is just getting started
By Hannah Wallace
Jordan Letschert lives his life in terms of service. A first-generation American who grew up on south Siesta Key, the former law-enforcement officer now serves his hometown as an affordable housing advocate, an LGBTQ-plus and minority-rights activist, and a husband and father.
Letschert’s public service stems from a lifetime of private encouragement, motivations, and inspiration. When you work patrol as a police officer, he said, “You look at your own life, and you realize your problems are rather minuscule. The calls you go on — someone lost a child, drug overdoses, terrible car accidents, you name it. You sit back and reflect and think, ‘My problems are pretty small.’”
Letschert, 39, credits a loving family and an idyllic Siesta Key childhood with his service-oriented spirit and entrepreneurial instincts. His father and uncle, Trudo and Titus Letschert, both emigrated from the Netherlands. Titus founded legendary St. Armands restaurant Café L’Europe in 1973, and Trudo later created the Galleon Resort in Key West.
Letschert attended Siesta’s St. Boniface preschool, then Out-of-Door Academy for kindergarten through 12th grade. He spent childhood free time with his brother exploring the Intracoastal Waterway, and at his uncle’s restaurant playing hide-and-seek with the employees.
He earned a degree in hospitality management from UCF. But a lifelong passion pulled him toward law enforcement. At the same time, a romantic relationship took him to northern Texas.
Letschert, who came out as gay when he was a senior in high school, graduated from the regional police academy second in his class. He saw positive generational differences in how his fellow officers responded to his sexual orientation.
“Younger officers really didn’t care,” he said. “Sometimes I found I had to prove myself more than my straight counterparts. Luckily, I’m a physically big guy. People would be surprised when I received certain certifications. I had to sort of break down this stereotype. But it didn’t bother me. I was happy to rise to the occasion.
“Conversely,” he added, “my sexual orientation had nothing to do with policing when I was stepping out of the patrol car to help someone after a 911 call.”
After three years in Texas, Letschert returned to Sarasota in 2010 with entrepreneurship in mind. He partnered with his brother and father (both named Trudo) to form TTJ Investments, a real estate company focused on flipping foreclosed homes. The partners soon began working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 to establish affordable housing within their portfolio, which stretched from Manatee County to North Port.
In 2014, TTJ Investments sold its 75 properties to a New York firm. Two weeks later, after a chance encounter with a friend at what was then Gold’s Gym on Beneva and Bee Ridge roads, Letschert embarked on his next entrepreneurial project: a partnership with Crunch Fitness. He and his partners now operate 40 locations in Florida and Georgia, with more to come.
But even as his professional career flourished, Letschert’s personal life had reached an impasse. He and his partner, Robby Price, met in 2012 and had long wanted to start a family.
“We’d looked into the surrogacy process. In Florida, you had to be married, but we couldn’t get married,” he said. “I had served people I didn’t know. Now I was just seeking to have a family. And the state was denying my right.”
Though at the time the two could get married in other states like California, Letschert wanted to be married in his hometown.
“I had always enjoyed learning about history and politics,” he said, “but this was what lit my fire for civil rights advocacy.”
Letschert became one of the initial 100 first responders in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in an amicus brief opposing Florida’s then-Attorney General Pam Bondi’s support of the state’s gay marriage ban. That same group became part of the 2015 Supreme Court decision, which ruled to grant and recognize gay marriages throughout the country.
Letschert and Robby were married at Historic Spanish Point in 2016. Their son, Kellan, was born a year later.
And his fire continues to burn. Letschert’s most recent work as an LGBTQ-plus activist with Project Pride SRQ has generated even more visibility — both for minority communities and for Letschert himself.
In June 2021, as Project Pride’s board president, Letschert knew that traditional Pride celebrations needed an innovative new approach during the pandemic. When events and gatherings were all but impossible, Letschert turned to other symbols of inclusivity. His work led to 75 Pride banners flying downtown during June, a rainbow display lighting the Ringling Bridge, and the first-ever Pride endorsement from the city of Sarasota.
In January, Letschert received a Mayor’s Citation from Sarasota mayor Erik Arroyo.
“Whether it’s openly gay police officers, firefighters, doctors, restaurateurs —they’re all your neighbors. They’re all a part of our community already. People want to stand behind one subset of the community. They don’t realize that (all of these subsets) can be one and the same,” Letschert said. “You need to be visible to be a part of the conversation. Otherwise, you become marginalized.”
Letschert aims to leverage the fundraising strengths of Project Pride to benefit other marginalized groups — including LGBTQ organizations like ALSO Out Youth, as well as underrepresented communities like Newtown.
While Letschert’s family and colleagues remain lovingly accepting, he knows many others in marginalized communities continue to struggle. He cites suicide rates and countrywide legislative efforts as among the many reasons he continues to fight for the next generation: A 2021 national survey by the Trevor Project revealed 42% of LGBTQ youth said they’d seriously considered attempting suicide. Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill limiting LGBTQ discourse in public schools passed a state senate committee in February.
“It’s hard, because we’re trying to raise our son with an open mind and an open heart,” he said. “If he goes to a school that isn’t allowed to acknowledge the existence of his family, how are we supposed to raise a good little human being?”