The Columbia Heights City Council appointed Nick Novitsky to complete the dias in early April. A longtime Heights resident and involved community member, Novitsky has hit the ground running. Already familiar with the many projects and issues in the city, Novitsky has been spending his time catching up on the city’s Comprehensive Plan and communicating and connecting with local groups.
Novitsky has lived in Columbia Heights for his entire life, along with his wife and high school sweetheart Angie. The pair has two daughters, Alayna, 10, and Natasha, 8. Alongside his father and brother, Novitsky is part owner of local business J & M Auto Recycling and Towing.
Perception is not the reality
If an event is going on in Heights, Novitsky is likely to be there. From community picnics, to school events, to sports games, there are many opportunities to stay connected. He stressed the importance of realizing that “perception is not the reality” in most cases and encourages Heights residents to open their eyes to what the many community groups have to offer.
“The city has so many great things to offer, but you hear people saying ‘oh, there’s nothing for kids’ or ‘oh, there aren’t any sports.’ Well, I’ve been participating in those things for eight years,” Novitsky said. “Heights has a lot of fun stuff, and they are starting to get more well-attended.”
His daughters also help him to stay motivated, as well as serve as a reminder to lead by example. He said his oldest daughter Alayna enjoys volunteering and staying involved. With a birthday on Earth Day, he said she shares a passion for keeping the streets clean and has been participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program for the past five years.
Adopt-a-Highway has been a Columbia Heights Lions Club staple for 21 years, and Novitsky took over the program five years ago. Twice a year, different community groups pick up litter along the streets from 37th to 53rd on University Avenue.
He said the program has really grown over the past few years. New community group HeightsNEXT has also expanded the program onto Central Avenue.
“There are so many more people getting involved. I feel like it really connects the community more,” Novitsky said.
Novitsky said his next goal is to expand the Adopt-a-Park program. The city currently has four parks that are available.
“I really want to promote it to some of these groups now that we have momentum going,” he said.
Alongside his new role on the city council, Novitsky participates in many community groups. A Lions Club member for about four years, Novitsky was recently elected as president of the organization and will begin his new role this July. He also serves as an assistant coach for 10-U baseball and co-chair for the Twin Cities Walk for Apraxia.
His youngest daughter Natasha was diagnosed with verbal apraxia, a motor disorder that can make it difficult to enunciate words. His family got involved with the Walk for Apraxia four years ago, and Novitsky took on the position as co-chair last year. When the organization’s coordinator was searching for more help, he decided to step up.
“That’s kind of how it happens for me, I keep getting more and more involved,” Novitsky laughed.
He and his wife worked tirelessly with Natasha through speech therapy and practice sessions at the library. He said Natasha has tested for 98 percent intelligibility and essentially “graduated” from the diagnosis.
Novitsky aims to expand and generate more publicity for the organization.
“It’s such a great fundraiser to help other kids with [apraxia] and raise awareness,” he said.
Once again stressing the importance of leading by example, Novitsky feels it is especially important for residents at his age and generation to get involved.
“We have to step up and not let others keep doing things for us,” he said. “And help promote things that these community groups already have going on.”
Novitsky said one of his strong suits is listening and connecting people’s ideas and common ground. He encourages not just “sticking with your safe groups,” which is part of the reason why he has been trying to get to more meetings that he typically hasn’t attended in years past.
“I want to go there and listen and take in the information, and see what people need to move forward,” he said.
He cited a recent event held by the Columbia Heights Police Department, a public forum regarding immigration and law enforcement.
“Those conversations really help because they bring out so many different perspectives. More people are able to talk a little more freely without fear,” he said. “It’s a great place to listen to others and really take it all in.”
Use the passion
Novitsky said he didn’t grow up thinking he wanted to be a council member, but the interest was sparked as he got more and more active in the community.
“It was about four years ago that I started thinking about it and following things more,” he shared. “Then I started really considering if I could step up and try, and if I could really make a difference, and I feel like I can.”
He first ran in the November 2016 election, and earned third place following council member Connie Buesgens and Bobby Williams.
He recalls on his experience door knocking, with many residents fueled with passion on issues in the city.
“It was like an interview everyday,” he said. “You never knew what you were going to get.”
Novitsky said this passion is what he is trying to find an outlet for.
“Let’s get off the social media or talking about it around the campfire and let’s find an outlet and do something about it,” Novitsky said. “Those are the people that will make the biggest influence.”
Contact Sarah Burghardt at [email protected]