With the recent appointment of Paul Nowicki as executive director of the Chelsea Housing Authority, it reaffirmed a well-known and noble fact: Paul and his wife, Tracy, are one of the most public service-oriented couples in the city’s long history.
The Nowickis’ unwavering commitment to Chelsea over the past four decades has not gone unnoticed.
Leo Robinson, president of the City Council, served on the Board of Aldermen and later the City Council with Paul Nowicki. A strong supporter of seniors, Robinson admires the excellent leadership Tracy Nowicki has displayed as the director of the Chelsea Senior Center, a position in which she has held for 14 years.
“I had the honor of serving with Paul in city government and I know Tracy from growing up in Chelsea and her exemplary leadership at the Senior Center, and I respect them as two of Chelsea’s most outstanding individuals,” said Robinson.
Both are Products of Chelsea
The son of Fred and Beverly, Paul grew up on Broadway in a family rich in public service. His great-grandfather was a municipal police officer in the early 1900s. His grandfather [Robert Renfrew] was a Chelsea Police officer from 1929 to 1971. His father, Fred, was a Chelsea firefighter for 36 years, and an officer and coach in the Chelsea Little League. His mother, Beverly, was director of nurses at Cottage Manor Nursing Home which later became On Broadway. She served as a parent representative in Chelsea Youth Hockey. His brother, Scott, was also an athlete, a 1982 Chelsea High graduate, and works at the Chelsea DPW.
The daughter of Joan Constantino and Nicholas Constantino, Tracy (Constantino) Nowicki grew up on Beacon Street, one of six children, including her twin sister, Stacy (“I’m the youngest by three minutes,” said Tracy) She also has two other sisters, Maria, and Janice, and two brothers, Joseph and Nick.
“When my father died in 1974, we moved from East Boston to Chelsea,” recalled Tracy, who like her husband, attended Williams School, though Paul eventually moved on to Saint Sebastian School for seventh and eighth grade.
Tracy spent all of her academic years in Chelsea. “I was in Chelsea schools the whole way. I grew up on public assistance until we all could work and then support the family to get off public assistance. Our lives were really about working and supporting the family. My mother had to raise six children.”
Paul and Tracy first met in 1988. “I want to say it was Voke Park,” said Tracy. “We’ve been together since then.”
Making a Daily Impact in Chelsea Life
Tracy Nowicki began her career working at City Hall in Mayor Butch Brennan’s office, becoming the executive assistant.
She continued her service as an executive assistant in city government as Chelsea went into receivership. When Chelsea moved to a city manager/city council style of government, Nowicki obtained her paralegal certification from Boston University and worked in the office of the city’s chief legal counsel, Kim Driscoll, who is now the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. She later worked for current City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher.
“The position of Council on Aging director opened up, and I felt like it was time for me to make a change,” said Tracy. “I knew I wanted to stay in public service and work in Chelsea, because I love the city so much.”
Former city manager Jay Ash appointed Nowicki to the position of Council on Aging director. “I’m very thankful to Jay for this job,” said Tracy. “Because he gave me that opportunity and because he had faith and trust in me that I could do the job, here I am 14 years later, and I feel very successful.”
Nowicki said she is very proud of her hard-working staff that includes Deb Connors, Nilsa Cosme, Geraldine Portillo, Michael De Jesus, and Juan Ramos. The Senior Center welcomes hundreds of Chelsea seniors each week.
“I have the best team that allows me to be successful, because of their efforts,” credited Tracy. “We have great partnership with local agencies, with North Suffolk Community Services being one of them.”
Paul Nowicki was an alderman-at-large for two terms before being elected to the first-ever City Council and serving four times as president. He served 16 years as an elected official. He ran for state senate in 2007 and put forth a strong campaign that resulted in a tremendous vote from Chelsea residents.
“Even though we lost, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences because of the amount of enthusiasm and positiveness that was focused on in the City of Chelsea,” said Paul. “Chelsea came out so much stronger for my campaign than we had predicted.”
Wanting to remain in public service, Paul applied for and was appointed to the position of director of supportive services and occupancy at the Chelsea Housing Authority.
He was promoted to CHA director of operations and after a lengthy application, interview, and selection process, Paul Nowicki was appointed executive director of the Chelsea Housing Authority.
“I think I bring a level of compassion to the job. From my upbringing in this community and my family living here, it gives me a different perspective,” said Nowicki. “I’ve been trying to pass along my ideas and philosophies of public service and how we can help the residents of Chelsea.”
Nowicki oversees close to 1,000 apartments in residential complexes throughout the city. He also administers Section 8 housing programs in Chelsea, Saugus, and Amesbury.
The Nowickis’ dual administrative positions have led to a partnership in helping seniors find key services and assisting with referrals for housing in the community.
Senior advocate Geraldine Portillo has been instrumental in referrals to agencies. “She’s become a positive fixture in the senior housing developments. The residents are very comfortable and trusting of Geraldine,” said Tracy.
The Nowickis worked closely during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing free testing to elderly residents. The Senior Center also helped the CHA coordinate the vaccination program in the city.
“One of our most satisfying achievements was how we treated our residents and kept them healthy during COVID in a city that was one of the hardest-hit in the country,” said Paul.
“We turned the senior center into an emergency food distribution outlet, and the Housing Authority assisted in getting the grocery bags to the housing development every day,” said Tracy. “And our partnership with the Chelsea Black Community (led by President Joan Cromwell) so that they could manage the COVID clinics with Cataldo Ambulance – that’s been an important effort in our community.”
The Chelsea Housing Authority has been universally credited for their efforts during the COVID-19 health crisis, something in which Paul Nowicki takes considerable pride.
“Like Tracy, I have a terrific team that I am super exited working with, as we look to preserve some of the oldest housing stock in the Commonwealth and how we expand our portfolio in future developments, like we’re doing at Innes [Apartments],” said Paul.
Public Service is ‘the Ultimate Reward’
About their lifelong commitment to public service, Tracy and Paul Nowicki called it “the ultimate reward,” with both administrators pointing out that the work of the U.S. military and police and fire departments are deserving of tremendous praise and respect.
“Whatever Paul and I can do to make people’s lives better while navigating a path to help the poor and the homeless – it’s the ultimate reward, to the extent that we had our children get involved at the Senior Center and in public housing, so that they could see and learn and be a part of it,” said Tracy.
Though Tracy has been recruited to work in the legal sector at major Boston firms, she has opted to continue her career in Chelsea.
“Because I love the community so much and serving the people that we do, I have chosen public service over anything else,” she said.
Paul Nowicki is also proud to be the leader of the Chelsea Housing Authority at a crucial time in the city’s history.
“To be in a position to help the most vulnerable, to help the voiceless have a voice – I take greed pride in seeing all of our families succeed, and to see our elderly live independently and age in place, that is what is most rewarding about my job,” said Paul.
Unmatched Athletic Excellence
Any story about Paul and Tracy Nowicki must include the undisputed nugget that the Nowicki/Constantino family is packed with athletic excellence. In fact, a case could be made that Paul Nowicki is Chelsea’s greatest, all-around high school athlete. He was a certified Chelsea Little League, Youth Baseball League, and Babe Ruth baseball legend who had the relatively unusual combination of throwing left-handed and batting right-handed. The short left-field porch at Voke Park was perfectly suited for Paul Nowicki.
An All-Scholastic at Matignon High School and an inductee in the school’s Hall of Fame, Paul ultimately took his football career to San Diego City College [where he played alongside his lifelong friend, Joe Bevere Jr.] and Clemson University. He later attended Northeastern University.
Tracy was an outstanding four-year varsity softball player at Chelsea High, carrying on the family tradition from her sister, Maria Constantino.
“That’s why I played softball, I wanted to emulate Maria,” said Tracy. “I also played basketball for one year.”
The Nowickis’ oldest daughter, Mia, was a strikeout-machine softball pitcher at St. Mary’s High School in Lynn and excelled at the collegiate level at Assumption. Their daughter, Christina Nowicki, just wrapped up a stellar season for the NCAA Tournament-qualifying Endicott College softball team. And then there’s John Paul Nowicki, who seems to have inherited his father’s baseball wizardry. John Paul helped St. Mary’s of Lynn win a state championship and is now a Winchendon prep school pitcher whose fastball has hit 90 miles per hour. John Paul is emerging as a high-level college prospect and this summer he’ll be showcasing his skills in front of college and Major League Baseball scouts.