Posted on June 12, 2019
(Since 2011, MHP's Housing Institute holds an awards luncheon on its second day and recognizes communities and individuals for their efforts to create affordable housing. On June 6, 2019, MHP surprised Phil DeMartino of DHCD with a Housing Hero Award for his many years of service. Presenting the award was Rus Lodi, MHP's director of public affairs. Here are his remarks).
When we started asking questions about our last Housing Hero, there was no shortage of adjectives to describe how this person is loved and respected by colleagues. Reliable. Helpful. Knowledgeable. Remarkable. Patient. Responsive. Invaluable.
Those are just some of the words the staff at the Department of Housing & Community Development used to describe Phil DeMartino, the first DHCD staffer to receive an MHP Housing Hero Award.
Phil’s official title is Senior Technical Assistance Coordinator. His responsibilities include reviewing all Housing Production Plans and providing information on all matters related to Chapter 40B.
But, his real title is “Institutional Memory of DHCD.” His daily job is providing answers and guidance to a wide range of stakeholders ranging from developers, attorneys and consultants, local and state officials, reporters, frustrated residents, people who are seeking housing and people who are living in affordable housing but are having a problem.
His boss, Linda Balzotti, agrees. “With the number of retirements we’ve had, we have fewer people with historical experience and knowledge. Phil’s willingness to help out anyone who calls with issues and concerns is remarkable,” she said.
His longtime colleague Bill Reyelt echoed these sentiments. “Whether he is dealing with upset local residents with little or no familiarity with 40B or those more schooled in the law, Phil is incredibly calm and patient and able to gently but effectively assist this broad range of stakeholders.”
Phil’s background provides clues as to why he is able to maintain his patient, empathetic, helpful demeanor. The son of Phillip and Annie (Byrne) DeMartino, he grew up in Fitchburg and graduated from Westfield State College. Growing up, he often helped out his mother, a well-known state social worker who was nationally recognized for her pioneering efforts to get the homeless out of hotels into permanent housing during 1980s and 1990s. She also helped start Our Father’s Table, a Fitchburg nonprofit that serves meals to the homeless and low income.
After Westfield State, Phil’s first jobs were more focused on the people side. He helped at-risk youth and was a housing search worker for the Salvation Army. He joined DHCD in 1996 and worked in the Homeless Intercept Program.
Phil’s mother Annie said her son is the perfect blend of his father’s calmness and her background in social services. “He’s much like his father in that way,” said Annie. “He’ll do anything for peace and quietness. He didn’t get that from me. What he did get from me is the patience you need to be a social worker. It’s nice to have an Italian father and an Irish mother. It’s a good blend.”
We agree with you Annie. It’s a good blend from which heroes are made.
Read about the other 2019 MHP Housing Heroes: