New Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins has
quickly come to be known as an agent of change, a passionate advocate for
equity in the law and a solid leader ready to stand up for a cause – but few
know that before all that she was an elite Division 1 college athlete, and it
was on the playing field where she first gained her love and respect for the law.
Rollins grew up in a large family in
Cambridge, and sports were part of her family from the beginning, long before
she ever thought of the legal system.
Rollins said she was a team captain of every
sport she played going back to youth soccer, and an All-Scholastic in
basketball at Buckingham, Brown & Nichols School (BB&N), but it was on
the lacrosse field where she was the most outstanding. The sport – which was
somewhat newer to New England in the 1980s when she was in high school – was
fast moving and, having been recruited to play after a basketball practice,
Rollins had a great skill set to be a high achiever.
“I was the oldest of five siblings and my
parents worked very hard to make sure we got a great education,” she said. “I
got into BB&N after the third grade, but at one point my parents sat me
down and told me I was a good athlete and a good student and needed to get a
scholarship if I wanted to go to college.”
Her skills led her to a full Division 1
Scholarship to UMass-Amherst for lacrosse, this coming after winning a national
championship on the high school level in 1989. After an outstanding freshman
year, Rollins and her teammates were shocked to learn that their sport was
being eliminated by the university due to budget cuts.
Though she was able to keep her scholarship,
she said she eventually missed the athletic fields, and that’s when she and
some other women athletes turned to the law – which she found to be a powerful
leveler for those without much of a voice.
“At first, I was kind of relieved because I
didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. for conditioning anymore, but later I began to
miss sports,” she said. “I’d played sports my entire life and missed the
camaraderie you feel when you have the team behind you and you score a goal.
“We only had three or four scholarship
players and we were good,” she continued. “The men’s football team hadn’t won a
game in years and they had 75 full-time scholarships with everything provided
for them, including food and lodging. I didn’t know a lawyer or a judge, but it
seemed so unfair. Myself ,and a few other athletes from the women’s teams,
asked to meet with the Athletic Director.”
That meeting didn’t go so well, and there
was no change, but DA Rollins said everything changed when they got a lawyer.
“Our lawyer threatened a Title 9 lawsuit,”
she said. “The AD completely changed his tune. We got all or our teams
re-instituted after a while.”
Rollins – who attended Northeastern
University Law School after UMass – said it was her first taste at how the law
can be used to empower and bring about justice.
And it was a powerful experience.
“I saw that lawyers matter and words
matter,” she said. “As a young person, I thought, ‘Oh my God, lawyers are
awesome.’ They make everyone fall into line and things change.”
It was the defining moment she points to
after a long legal career with MassPort, the MBTA, and now as the Suffolk
District Attorney, where the law became her passion.
However, when it came to leadership –
another characteristic she said has been critical as the newly-elected DA in an
office that has had the same leader for almost two decades – it was what
happened after the teams were re-instated that taught her the most.
She said when the team was finally brought
back, she was the only player left with any real experience. Most of the
players and coaches had been plucked from other sports like track and
volleyball. The elite athlete soon found herself the captain of a team that
couldn’t win a game to save themselves.
Yet, she said it was the most important time
of her life, leading a team that likely wasn’t going to win, but could still
accomplish some goals in the meantime.
“It was one of the best learning experiences
I ever had,” she said. “You show up with a smile on your face and give 100
percent even when things aren’t going well. It taught me character…Anyone can
be present when things are going great, but where are you when things get hard?
Do you still show up? I like to say it costs very little to pay someone a
compliment or be respectful. Yet so few do it.”
That kind of optimism for a competitive
person in the midst of a losing season was life changing.
“What’s beautiful is to learn not to be
discouraged and to be optimistic,” she said. “Those are actually the years I
broke records because the numbers of goals I scored. There are still records
out there 26 or 27 years later that I set and I’m proud to say I still hold.”
Certainly, the end of her athletic career
did not mean an end to those valuable lessons. In fact, she said, it has been
sports that taught her about justice and leadership.
“We are breaking down barriers,” she said.
“When you see a woman in leadership roles, it happens quite often that in the
past that woman had some athletic ability or played some sport. It teaches us
about inclusion or teamwork or perseverance. Sports doesn’t care about how much
money you have or where you live, it’s about how well you perform on the field.
It’s a great leveler. It’s been invaluable for me.”
And in the office, she is adjusting to being
that new person who is also the leader of the office. That, she said, takes the
kind of skills she honed on the athletic fields some years ago.
“I’m the new person to the team here in the
DA’s office and I’m also their leader,” she said. “Change is difficult. What I
try to do is show up, know the great work they do and be as encouraging and
purposeful as I can.”
Nowadays, Rollins doesn’t spend much time on
the playing field, but still enjoys watching her daughter run track, where she
has won national championships in the 100m and 200m races. Such things are
encouraging, she said, to see girls and young women have so many opportunities
that were hard-fought by the generation ahead of them – a generation such as
the women athletes like Rollins who used the legal system to challenge decision
“It’s really exciting to see young women are
getting the same opportunities men have had a long time,” she said. “Being
excited for my young girls playing sports doesn’t take away from my excitement
for young men playing sports. We want everyone to have the opportunity for
success, on and off the field.”
Rollins indicates her office will be more present at crime scenes
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael
Rollins said one change she has made immediately to the office is making sure
at major crime scenes, she and members of her office are on scene.
That includes homicides and other such
Whether in Boston, Chelsea, Revere or
Winthrop, she said it is important to be present at the scene, even if it’s the
middle of the night.
She said she has instructed everyone to call
her no matter what time, and not to wait for the morning to brief her on major
“For me, it’s important to kind of be
proximate and present when things happen so people know we not only handle the
case, but also we had boots on the ground from the beginning. A lot of the work
we do is behind the scenes and people don’t see it…So, it’s important they see
us and we experience what they are dealing with because it really makes us have
insight into the work we do every single day.”
She said that,
particularly at homicides, she and her office would make every effort to be on
scene throughout the county.
Hundreds of friends, family, former high
school classmates, and co-workers paid their respects to Trina Louise Wilkerson
during memorial observances at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Malden.
Trina passed away unexpectedly on March 6.
She was 45 years old.
Reggie Wilkerson, her older brother and one
of Chelsea High’s greatest quarterbacks, said he appreciated the many people
who came out to pay tribute to his sister’s beautiful life.
Trina was a lifelong supporter of Reggie’s
and the caretaker of the well-known Wilkerson family.
“Trina was a great little sister, the best,”
said Reggie. “She was always there for me. She took care of our family, and
that was so important. She took so much care of everybody in our family.”
Reggie and Trina participated in Chelsea Pop
Warner together, he as a football player, she as a cheerleader.
Trina was an amazing party organizer and
loved being around people. She uplifted others with her smile and kind words.
When Irena Wilkerson, Reggie and Trina’s
beloved mother, passed away, Trina decided to organize a party to honor her and
donate the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. Reggie helped out, to be
sure, but Trina was the planner who took care of the details to insure the
success of the event, making sure that everyone had a good time.
Reggie said he will carry on with the fifth
annual fundraiser – in memory of Irena Wilkerson and Trina Wilkerson – and host
the benefit this Saturday, March 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Merritt
Paying their respects
One of the many friends who turned out for
the tribute to Trina Wilkerson was Phunk Phenomenon Dance Studio owner Reia
“Reia was one of my sister’s best friends,”
said Reggie. “Reia, my sister, and I used to take dance lessons together at
Genevieve’s. I was a dancer, too. We used to wear our little costumes.”
City Councillors Leo Robinson and Calvin
Brown joined other local dignitaries in paying their respects to Trina.
“Just a great young lady,” said Calvin
Brown. “I’m so fortunate to having gotten to know Trina and her beautiful
family. We have lost a great person, someone who loved Chelsea and gave back to
Also turning out for the memorial
observances in Malden were Trina’s co-workers at Hyde Park Community Center.
“My sister was a youth counselor in Boston,
so there were a lot of youths whom my sister mentored during their childhood –
they spoke at the services,” said Reggie.
“It was very touching to hear their stories and how much they loved my
sister and what she did to help them succeed in their lives. I was like, ‘wow,
Reggie said during the observances a
gentleman approached him and said, “Your sister (Trina) helped my daughter so
much. She suffered from low self-esteem, her confidence level was low and she
didn’t believe in her artwork. He said to me, ‘your sister mentored her and she
raised her confidence level and she got my daughter to believe in her work.
“And Reggie, I want to tell you that because
of Trina, my daughter was accepted to the school of her choice – and we owe
this all to your sister.”
Heartwarming stories like that about Trina –
a 2017 recipient of the CBC’s prestigious Chelsea Trailblazer Award – have
helped Reggie and the family during this difficult time.
“Trina did so
much for kids and the community in general,” said Reggie proudly. “I want to
carry on her legacy of caring and kindness and her generosity of spirit.”
A small order on the Feb. 25 Council agenda
likely didn’t attract a lot of attention at the regular meeting, but Council
President Damali Vidot said she had hoped it could have sparked a conversation.
That measure, which she introduced, revolved
around looking at the possibility of allowing non-citizens that are here
legally to vote in municipal elections.
Instead, she said, she was greeted with
silence – and a ‘no’ vote.
“We have people invested in our community,
who own homes, have kids in the schools and own businesses, but because they
are citizens, they can’t vote in our elections,” she said. “Why not have a
conversation about allowing them to vote? The fact my colleagues didn’t want to
at least have a conversation is a travesty.”
The roll call consisted of a 5-6 defeated
vote, with Vidot and Councillors Judith Garcia, Yamir Rodriguez, Enio Lopez and
Giovanni Recupero agreeing to begin talking about it.
Those voting against were Councillor Roy
Avellaneda, Calvin Brown, Joe Perlatonda, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson and Bob
Vidot said she fully intends to bring the
matter back in 90 days.
“I don’t understand why we couldn’t
entertain this, to allow people to be part of the civic process,” she said. “At
the minimum, I thought we could have a conversation. If I had known there would
be this reaction from my colleagues, I would have organized before. I have
every intention of bringing it back again in 90 days. We can’t be in the habit
of saying ‘no’ without talking about it.”
Other cities in Massachusetts have voted to
allow non-citizens to vote, including Cambridge and Brookline. Such a petition
by the Council would require a home rule petition by the State Legislature. It
would also require legislative action by the State House as well.
The measure in
Chelsea would not allow non-citizens to vote in state or federal elections.
The city is mourning the loss of Joanne
Tarason, a popular local business owner and highly respected community leader
who touched the lives of many residents with her kindness and generosity.
Mrs. Tarason died on Tuesday. She was 77.
Joanne Tarason owned Coprico Printing
(formerly Sir Speedy) at 40 Washington Ave., located across the street from
Chelsea City Hall. She was also a long-time member of the Rotary Club and the
Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
Mrs. Tarason donated her services to many
local organizations. Though she received numerous awards in appreciation of her
generous contributions and volunteer services, she always deflected the praise
to others and tried to stay out of the spotlight.
“Joanne helped out so many groups in a quiet
and unassuming way,” said Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson. “She never sought
recognition for her many kind deeds and generous assistance. Chelsea has a lot
a great woman, community leader and friend.”
Councillor-at-Large Calvin Brown said Mrs.
Tarason was “one of Chelsea’s unsung heroes.”
“Joanne did so much for so many and was
admired by all,” said Brown. “It was always a pleasure to see her at local
social events. We have lost a great friend to Chelsea.”
Mrs. Tarason was a goodwill ambassador for
the Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club, always lending her support at
installation of officers dinners, community fundraisers, and the Chamber’s
$10,000 Pot-O-Gold Dinners.
But her reign of kindness and premier
platform of helpfulness was at her local business where residents would often
stop in just to say hello. She was meticulous in her work and customers came
from far and wide to have their printing jobs, large and small, done at her
Mrs. Tarason stayed ahead of the
technological advances in the printing business, acquiring new skills and
equipment to meet the requests of her large clientele.
The Chelsea City
Council will pay tribute to Mrs. Tarason with a moment of silence at its Feb.
Frankie Bernard was an inspiration to all, a man who never let his physical challenges deter him from his pursuits in
Frankie Bernard was a noted newspaper cartoonist and caricaturist whose artwork was enjoyed by many people.
life. With the support of a loving family and friends who enjoyed being in his presence, Frankie lived each day to its fullest.
Born with Spina Bifida, Frankie graduated from Chelsea High School in 1986 and attended the Massachusetts College of Art. He became an accomplished cartoonist and caricaturist, delighting readers on the pages of the Chelsea Record and its sister publications with his creativity and keen sense of humor.
He brought joy to visitors to Faneuil Hall Marketplace with his caricatures and taught others the craft of art and to appreciate it while serving as an instructor at Bunker Hill College and in school programs in Chelsea. Through social media, he developed friendships with other artists all over the country.
Francis J. ‘Frankie’ Bernard Jr., son of Mary L. (Manning) Bernard and the late Francis J. Bernard Sr., died on Dec. 18 after a brief illness. Frankie was 51.
“The most important thing I would want people to know is how strong he was, what he endured, and he just took it with a grain of salt,” said his sister, Maureen Bernard Jurgelewicz. “The hospitalizations, the procedures, and the tests, things most people couldn’t endure, Frankie met them head on as a fact of life.
“Interestingly enough, they told my mother that Frankie would live to be about 2 years old, so he defied that by a lot,” said Maureen. “He surprised the doctors with surviving and flourishing.”
And he did flourish, demonstrating an early gift of proficiency in art and caricatures. “That came out pretty much when he was a toddler – he was able to draw and he could pick up any song and play it on the keyboards, even though he never had lessons,” said Maureen. “You could see he had that gift at a young age. He was very artistic.”
Maureen recalled how Frankie would engage in recreational activities with the other children on Gardner Street and in the neighborhood, participating regularly in games like kickball and kick the can.
“He would try to keep up with us and he could,” said Maureen.
She describes her mother, Mary Bernard, as “an angel,” who devoted her whole life to Frankie with her care, her uplifting manner, and her kindness.
“Frankie and I had a good relationship, sometimes I was like a second mom to him, though he didn’t always like that too much,” said Maureen. “We did a lot together, the past two years especially.”
Maureen said her brother loved Chelsea. “I tried to get him to move closer to me, but he wouldn’t budge – he loved everything about Chelsea. He loved his Chelsea friends.”
Sean Richards was one of Frankie’s closest friends, according to Maureen.
It was Maureen who wrote the beautiful eulogy that was delivered by Frankie’s nephew, Michael Bernard Jr., at the funeral Mass Dec. 22 at Our Lady of Grace Church.
Following is the eulogy:
Eulogy for Frankie
Love can cure your problems/You’re so lucky I’m around/Let my love open the door.
These are the lyrics to one of Frankie’s favorite songs from one of his favorite bands. They seem so fitting today as we pay tribute to our beloved friend, uncle, brother and son Frankie.
We love your strength and hope Frankie. Your Chelsea-strong fighting spirit. You showed us that strength means never giving up in the face of another hospital stay, another surgery or another social rejection. Your hope was for a better new day, each day, and that never waivered.
Frankie, we love that God blessed you with the gift of art. You loved to draw your caricatures and cartoons. It was your passion and profession. Other than a big tip or paycheck, you liked nothing more than to make people smile with your caricatures.
We loved your gusto for life. It was there as a kid playing kick-the-can on Gardner and Parker. Always keeping up with the neighborhood kids. It was there for concerts and karaoke as an adult. For attending your beloved Celtics and Red Sox games. You were always ready, willing and able to pursue a good time.
Frankie we love that you were a great friend. You loved nothing more than spending time with your friends. From your friends awakening you from hospice care in the ICU to meeting you at the PPC or the Brown Jug, you cherished each and every moment with them.
We love your love for family. As an Uncle, Brother and Son you have taught us so much. You gifted us with the lessons of patience and perseverance. You were a living example of never sweating the small stuff. You and Mom were a living example of dedication and truly unconditional love. This love was truly the best medicine of all.
When Chelsea residents go shopping for the holidays next year, they will have to either bring their own bags or pay a dime for a heavy-duty plastic bag.
Monday night, the City Council approved an anticipated single-use plastic bag ban in the city. The ban goes into effect one year from the Dec. 17 vote.
The proposal has been discussed in committee and meetings on the ban have been held with local businesses, but the issue was not listed on Monday night’s agenda.
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez made the motion to take the ban out of conference committee and have it voted on by the full Council. Lopez noted that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment and are also a constant source of litter around the city.
“This is a great idea and it is in our power to do it,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think small businesses will be able to adjust to the change.”
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he initially had some mixed feelings about the proposed ban, but said he was swayed by Sunday night’s ‘60 Minutes’ segment on the environmental dangers of plastic.
“I think plastic will kill us all if we keep going the way we are going,” said Bishop. While Bishop said plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of plastic, banning plastic bags is a start.
District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda voted for the ban, but said he did have some concerns about the cost to consumers and businesses. While single-use plastic bags will be banned, consumers will be able to purchase sturdier, multi-use plastic bags for 10 cents.
Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson shared some of Perlatonda’s concerns and recommended the proposal be kept in committee, giving local businesses more time for input.
But the majority of the Council favored taking action Monday night.
“There have been other cities that have implemented this, and you can see a huge difference in the streets,” said District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada.
The one year time-frame before the ban goes into effect will give the City time to do outreach to local businesses, and give the businesses time to go through any existing stock of plastic bags.
The ban passed with a 10-1 vote, with District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown casting the lone vote against it.
One bad apple hasn’t spoiled a whole bunch at the Chelsea Walk, where a man was arrested last week for defacing the newly painted mural on the reclaimed Walk.
On Aug. 20, at 2:52 p.m., a CPD officer was flagged down in the area of Luther Place by a male party who stated someone destroyed their property and defaced City property.
The reporting party was a painter hired by the City to paint a mural on the Chelsea Walk. The Walk has been a no-go area for decades, and community members and GreenRoots have staked a claim to the Walk this summer in an effort to make it more inviting.
That has included painting a mural and hosting events there, and some people who have frequented the Walk for nefarious reasons haven’t appreciated the effort.
The officer reviewed a city camera in the area and was able to identify the male subject who committed the vandalism.
The male was located and placed under arrest.
Winston Brown, 51, of 4 Washington Ave., was charged with vandalizing property.
After many hours of meetings and dozens of discussions, a parking plan putting put forth by Council President Damali Vidot has been tabled by a vote of 6-4.
But within that vote was the promise by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to do a comprehensive parking study that would focus on resident needs and be done by this fall.
“Sometimes, you put things forth knowing you won’t get support; but as an opportunity to allow councilors to show where they stand to their constituency for when Election season comes,” said Vidot after the vote Monday night. “The parking ordinance served its purpose by initiating conversation and the City finally getting a comprehensive parking study going. It’s a win-win for the people of Chelsea.”
Vidot’s plan would have applied to developers who asked to waive more than 10 percent of the required parking under the zoning ordinances. Those that do ask for such relief would then be required to put in apartment leases that residents of the development could not apply for or receive City residential parking stickers.
One of the main problems with many developments, it has been explained, is that they waive the parking requirements with the assumption that residents won’t utilize cars. However, Vidot and other councillors have said that it isn’t the case, and resident parking is being taken up by those in new developments with nowhere to park.
By precluding the parking stickers for those who have sought relief for more than 10 percent of parking, Vidot hoped to open up spaces for existing residents.
“We have a serious problem with parking,” she said. “That’s one reason I became a city councilor…I’m not sure if this is the best thing personally. I speak to residents and they say it is, but I speak to businesses and non-profits who are in the development world and they say not to do it. I was elected by the residents, so I say yes to this.”
Many, however, had grave concerns that it would squash new development.
“I do speak in opposition to the amendment as proposed,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand the sentiment, but the 10 percent figure will surely hamper out ability to improve the downtown and do one thing this Council is intent on doing and that’s building more affordable housing. I ask that you consider deferring action until we finish any parking study.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he could not support the matter.
“I have concerns about how we’re going about this,” he said. “We’re in the process of finishing a parking study. At this point, I think we should be able to work on a study first.”
Those voting for the parking plan were Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, and Giovanni Recupero.
Those voting to table the matter were Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson, Joe Perlatonda, and Judith Garcia.
A last ditch effort by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to reverse the new police and fire residency ordinance successfully passed by Councillor Giovanni Recupero failed on Monday night, June 4, in a close vote.
It represented seven years of twists and turns for Recupero’s number one issue and one that has been before the Council in several forms about a dozen times.
On Monday, the victory came in a narrow defeat of Avellaneda’s proposal, 5-6, which allowed the proposal to become the new law.
Those voting to keep the residency ordinance were Councillors Damali Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Joe Perlatonda and Recupero – a one vote margin of victory.
Those voting to reconsider and repeal the ordinance were Councillors Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Avellaneda, Leo Robinson and Judith Garcia.
“This is a good thing,” said Recupero. “It’s something the citizens of Chelsea wanted and I’ve fought for it for seven years solid. Now the councillors wanted it too. I think it’s good for the City and for the people. The police and fire can live in the neighborhood and understand the people and the people can understand them and respect them. The young men and women of the city will relate to them because they live in the same community.”
The matter will apply to anyone hired in the Police or Fire Department after July 31, 2018. It will require them to live in Chelsea for five years after starting on the job. After five years, they can move out of the city if they choose.
The negative came in that to get the measure, it had to become a collective bargaining issue. That meant that the entire Police and Fire Departments would get a raise in order to include the new condition in their contracts. Even those for whom the measure doesn’t apply will get additional pay to accept the new condition.
“Hey, it’s good for those on the department too,” said Recupero. “They’re all going to get a raise, but we’re going to get new officers that want to live in Chelsea.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he was against the measure because of the cost. He said he was once in favor of residency, but that changed when he learned about the collective bargaining costs.
“The bottom line is you have 40 police living in the city and 26 firefighters right now,” he said. “ When we have to go and negotiate with the union that means 110 police and 96 firefighters get raises. That’s $200,000 we’ll have to give them. I think it’s foolish to do. They think it’s a great thing. You have Bob Bishop voting against the budget because he says it out of control and then he votes for this without knowing what it costs.”