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  • County mourns loss of community champion

    Mar 05, 2021 | Read More News
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    The email arrived late in the work day on March 2. Those who work in Community & Workforce Development had dreaded this message would come, while praying for a different outcome.

    “It is with a very heavy heart …” the email began.

    Earlier that day, Danny Tylutki, the Deputy Director for Pima County’s Community & Workforce Development (CWD) Department, had died at home after battling an aggressive cancer. The husband and father of three young children was 43.

    “The world is a better place because he was here and he cared,” said CWD Director Dan Sullivan.

    Danny TylutkiTo those who knew Tylutki, maybe his innovative approach to community service stood out the most. Perhaps it was his passion. Or his sense of humor. His caring. His boldness. His energy. That mischievous, unforgettable, smile. Someone referred to him as a ”big-hearted goofball.”

    Colleagues applied all those terms and more in loving memory of Tylutki, and the outpouring of affection matched the love he gave.

    “The last thing he texted me before it got really bad for him was, ‘I got your back for life,’” Sullivan said.

    Sullivan vows to do the same to honor Tylutki.

    “How I’m going to remember Danny is by continuing to do this work the way he did it,” Sullivan said. “With pride, guts, passion, and love for his community.”

    * * *

    Daniel Anthony Tylutki was a bright star in Pima County government’s community service departments.

    A Tucson kid and a graduate of Salpointe Catholic High School, he went on to study at Pima Community College and the University of Arizona, earning a Master of Science degree in Planning and Community Development.

    He got his professional feet wet with an internship with the Community Development and Neighborhood Conservation (CDNC) Department, worked as a Community Development Specialist with the City of South Tucson from August 2003 to April 2005 and landed back with the County full time with CDNC, specializing in housing issues.

    “I worked with Danny for 15 years, and Danny always had a lot of energy and was very creative,” said former CDNC Director Margaret Kish, who retired in March 2019.

    “He was such a unique problem-solver. He would take questions, turn them inside-out and he never came up with the standard answers that most government workers would come up with. He always came up with, ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’ He always saw the possibilities, which sometimes drove me crazy, but there was a lot of vision to the work he wanted to do for the community.

    “And there was a quality in Danny that made you believe in that vision.”

    Tylutki and familyTylutki became CDNC interim director after Kish’s retirement and guided the department through the July 1, 2020, merger with the Community Services, Employment and Training Department, which has been Sullivan’s side of the house since joining the County as a program manager in 2016.

    “We’ve been friends since I started with the County, and we sort of served as the bridge between those two departments,” Sullivan said. “He taught me a lot about the County and helped me on my way.”

    Sullivan called Tylutki “an unsung hero.” Tylutki, he said, can deservedly be called a hero for being the driving force behind a new approach to eviction prevention and rental assistance for low-income residents of Pima County.

    During the COVID-19 pandemic, overseeing the Community Action Agency (CAA) that is responsible for rental assistance, Tylutki started asking “What if?” and “Why not?” Why not create a new program to increase capacity and speed up payments amid the overwhelming need? What if landlords, in addition to tenants, could initiate the online application? Tylutki developed a program in which the County would use a fiscal agent – the Community Investment Corporation (CIC) – which would, in turn, work with several nonprofit agencies to more efficiently process and pay out County CARES Act funds.

    Tylutki made that happen last fall, and the program was such a success that the City of Tucson is now joining the County in this program, giving any eligible COVID-impacted tenant an easy one-stop website – tucsonpimaep.com – to apply for a combined $31 million in assistance available through the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).

    This kind of model could very well serve as the future for various forms of CWD’s financial assistance to those in need in our community. A lasting Tylutki legacy.

    “Danny was passionate about providing assistance and support to some of our most vulnerable community members,” said Deputy County Administrator Dr. Francisco Garcia, who oversees CWD. “He treated them with respect and compassion.”

    Danny Knee, the executive director of the CIC, worked with Tylutki on multiple community projects and partnerships since 2004 and called his friend “a champion of the overlooked, the underserved.”

    “I don’t mean to disparage anybody in the city and county, but he was the guy in government I wanted to work with. That’s just the God’s honest truth,” Knee said.

    “In some cases, people don’t understand the kind of impact somebody like Danny had on the community and how much good he brought to it. The stuff he worked on wasn’t always in the headlines. But I made sure to tell him he had made a difference in a lot of people’s lives.”

    * * *

    Tylutki was diagnosed with mouth and neck cancer in September 2020, and he underwent 10 surgeries, radiation therapy and six weeks of chemotherapy. By January, he was back at work.

    Tylutki and Kish“I was going through our messages and even when he should have been resting, he was checking in on us, making sure all was good,” said Manira Cervantes, the program manager of the Community Action Agency. “His intentions were always good and he always looked out for everyone.

    “He had a heart of gold. This is unreal and completely devastating.”

    In February, Tylutki began to experience severe headaches and blurred vision, and doctors discovered swelling in his brain and rapidly progressing cancer. The family made arrangements for home hospice care.

    On Feb. 24, his wife of nearly 10 years, Tanya, posted to Facebook a picture of a note that Danny was able to write to his family. It said, “I (heart) you” with a smiley face.

    A GoFundMe page has been established via his friends and children’s school community to help alleviate some of the family’s medical bills.

    It is likely donations will come in from all over the country.

    Tylutki was a current member of the board for the National Association for County Community and Economic Development (NACCED) and previously helped bring the organization’s annual meeting to Pima County. The board will have a moment of silence for Tylutki at its March 5 meeting and will have a virtual Happy Hour in his memory to share stories of him. The group also posted a tribute to Tylutki on its Facebook page.

    “Danny was full of life -- smart, passionate, always up for fun, and able to make just about anybody laugh,” wrote NACCED Executive Director Laura DeMaria. “We are so sorry that he is gone, and especially for his young family.”

    One of Tylutki’s oft-repeated phrases was, “We’re in it to win it.”

    That will be the Community & Workforce Development Department’s rallying cry.

    “Always positive. Always upbeat. Always pushing us,” Marcos Ysmael, the director of the Pima County Housing Center, said of knowing Tylutki since he was an intern. “He wasn’t afraid to try something and have a few mishits along the way, but when he got an idea and was convinced it would work, nobody could tell him otherwise. That helped make Danny, Danny.

    “It is going to be difficult for us. We’re really going to miss him.”

    Middle photo: Danny Tylutki accepts a proclamation at a Board of Supervisors meeting on behalf of the Community Development Block Grant program.

    Bottom photo: Danny Tylutki and former boss, Margaret Kish, helped bring the National Association for County Community and Economic Development annual meeting to Tucson.