Attend our Integrity Icon celebration

On May 23, 2024

RSVP today to attend the 2024 Integrity Icon Philly celebration Thursday, May 23 at the Fitler Club Ballroom at 1 South 24th Street. Doors open at 6pm.


For its fourth year, The Philadelphia Citizen and Accountability Lab will be naming five high-integrity city workers as this year’s Integrity Icons. Join us to celebrate with family, friends, and colleagues. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For questions, please contact [email protected].



Meet our 2024 Integrity Icon Philadelphia Winners

2024 Integrity Icon: Tracey T. Williams

The deputy commissioner for the Department of Records is a career civil servant who’s fighting to protect homeowners and advocate for those in need of recognition

2024 Integrity Icon: Tracey T. Williams

The deputy commissioner for the Department of Records is a career civil servant who’s fighting to protect homeowners and advocate for those in need of recognition

The Philadelphia City Archives at 5th and Spring Garden streets is the official memory of our municipal government. It contains city planning maps, naturalization records, personal notes of mayors, and so much more — dating back to the 1600s.

When Tracey Williams got her job as the deputy commissioner for the Department of Records six years ago, she expected to work at the archives — but she didn’t expect to find herself literally in the files. “My mother delivered all six of her children at Philadelphia General Hospital,” Williams says. “I had one of our archivists pull one of our books one day, and saw my mom and siblings’ names in the registry. I thought it was super cool.”

For Williams, a career civil servant, that experience reinforced the idea that she’s tethered to the fabric of the city. While growing up in a public housing development in East Falls, she observed some of the deep inequities that existed in Philadelphia, including among the Black residents in her neighborhood. “In some regard, everyone [in the community] was hard-working, and wanted better for themselves,” Williams recalls. “Whether they were able to achieve that was another story, especially if they didn’t have support.”

“Seeing both sides of the coin, and growing up in a diverse environment definitely drove me to wanting to be involved in public service, wanting to improve my community, and always just wanting to make a difference.” Tracey Williams

In her current role, Williams does a lot more than manage the 20,000 cubic feet of the archives, a sprawling task in itself. In recent years, she’s also become an advocate for victims of deed fraud in Philadelphia, an issue that has affected a growing number of people in the city.

For her tireless advocacy and compassionate problem-saving that prevents crime, Williams is one of The Citizen’s 2024 Integrity Icons, awarded to city workers who go above and beyond their job descriptions to serve city residents. Along with the other four Icons, Williams will be honored at a party at Fitler Club on May 23. See the other winners here.


What is an Integrity Icon?

In partnership with DC-based Accountability Lab, The Citizen is the only American city to run an Integrity Icon program. The goal: To name and fame the city workers going above and beyond to make a positive impact in Philadelphia.

This past spring, the public nominated dozens of excellent city workers for the award, using the following criteria: They are a high-integrity public service employee who is respectful and caring; know their work makes a difference to people’s lives; act in a trustworthy and transparent way to solve problems the best they can; treat everyone equally, without regard to politics or influence; and go above and beyond to provide good service to Philadelphians.

A panel of high-integrity judges reviewed the candidates, and selected this year’s honorees. The 2024 winners join 15 other Integrity Icons named by The Citizen since 2021. Read about the others here.

Striving to serve

Deed fraud is when a forger fakes real estate transaction records, creating a fictitious chain of custody that allows them to profit while real owners lose their properties. In some cases, that chain is so complicated that it becomes necessary to hire a lawyer to recoup the deed. “And most of the time, the families that we serve don’t have those types of resources,” Williams says.

Along with Commissioner James Leonard, Williams developed and implemented Fraud Guard, a monitoring tool for citizens.“It only takes less than three minutes to sign up for Fraud Guard, and anytime a transaction is recorded [for a property], your name is recorded in our office and you’ll receive an alert,” Williams says. “It provides ease of comfort knowing that, okay, nothing was going on with my property.”

Since the program began two years ago, Williams has been offering workshops throughout the city to educate more people — particularly the elderly, who are more likely to fall victim to these schemes — on the risks of deed fraud. While the work is primarily about the people who’ve been targeted, it’s also connected to much deeper issues affecting the city.

“For a lot of communities of color, home ownership is their largest asset. And when they become victims of deed fraud, it further removes them from being able to have any type of generational wealth or gain access or entry to home ownership,” Williams says. “So it’s a huge problem and a huge challenge.”

A civil service journey

As a young girl, Williams hardly had a choice but to be a public servant. She recalls that her mother, in addition to raising six children, volunteered their family for ample service projects through their church. “Without my faith, and my mom, I don’t know where I would be — or who I would be,” Williams says.

Prior to her current job, Williams spent more than two decades as a social worker at multiple stops, holding positions at the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Health, and the Philadelphia School District, where she was responsible for the administrative oversight of school nurses and physical therapists.

“She lives the work that she does every day.” — Loree D. Jones-Brown, Philabundance CEO

In 2013, when Governor Tom Corbett made substantial budget cuts, dozens of school nurses were terminated, and Williams had to find temporary solutions, including through partnerships with local nursing colleges. Then, once that portion of the budget was restored, Williams had to pivot again to find a whole new crop of full-timers.

“Tracey worked really creatively to get nurses into schools,” says Loree D. Jones-Brown, CEO of Philabundance, who formerly worked with Williams at the District. Noting how Williams went above and beyond to keep kids in schools safe, Jones added, “She lives the work that she does every day.”

Like her mother, Williams embraces the meaning of service beyond her professional career. Williams leads the Women’s Prison Ministry of Wynnefield’s Sharon Baptist Church, which provides spiritual teachings and re-entry preparatory services to the women inside Riverside Correctional Facility and Chester County Prison. She also spends her free time sorting and packing food for Philabundance. Oh, and just for fun, she’s a judge for a church-led annual oratorical contest.

“She has the biggest heart ever,” says Cait Garozzo, executive director of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative. “She does a lot more than just process the work; she’s committed to educating people in and out of the office on how to spot scams and access resources to prevent fraud.”

Garozzo added that Tracey does the “informal advocacy work” of getting women of color to be better recognized for their accomplishments while working for the City. “She is strengthening the fabric of the institution she works for,” Garozzo says.

That drive — to lift up people who’re often overlooked — goes all the way back to a little girl in East Falls.

“Seeing both sides of the coin, and growing up in a diverse environment definitely drove me to wanting to be involved in public service, wanting to improve my community, and always just wanting to make a difference,” Williams says.


Tracey T. Williams, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Records. Photo by Creative Outfit.

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